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Where's the peppermint? How the dentists can teach the podiatrists a thing or two.

What a dentist can teach us about treating athlete's foot

The history of dental hygiene is actually an interesting story.  At the onset of the 20th century, dental hygiene was virtually non-existent.  A green stick was used to scrape only the most obvious of plaque and toothpaste was scoffed.  Toothpaste recipes that included burnt bread, pulverized brick and chalk were used as abrasives.  But it wasn't until the brilliant Dr. Washington Sheffield of Connecticut discovered that if you put mint into the toothpaste, people actually enjoyed using it (what a concept, right?)  And with pleasure came use.  It was finally a time when dentists could enthusiastically say, "If you brush your teeth regularly you'll probably keep your teeth for most of your life."  And people actually did.

What's this have to do with foot care?  Well, the foot lives in a unique environment.  The world inside the shoe is dark, moist and warm.  This environment represents everything conducive to the growth of a fungus.  A fungal infection will often start on the skin and slowly progress to the nail.  If a nail is injured, the nail becomes susceptible to cross infections from the skin.  Dermatophytosis, or what is commonly called athlete's foot will progress to a fungal infection of the nail known as onychomycosis.  And the connection?  Foot docs need to find their peppermint.  How can they make foot hygiene happen without the peppermint?

Any measure to improve health begins with health care literacy.  You need to understand the problems to be able the effectively treat it.  So first, be sure to read the links above.  The basics?  First, change the environment in the shoe.  Make warm dark and moist, cool, dry and open to the air.  Identify that fungus of the skin and treat it twice daily with a topical antifungal for the skin of antifungal for the nail.  And remember, it's not a 2-week cure.  Proper foot hygiene and treatment of fungal infections is an ongoing task - no different than brushing your teeth.  It needs to be done on a daily basis. 

And the peppermint?  Where's the peppermint?  Ah, we're working on that part of the equation.


Dr. Jeffrey Oster





Jeffrey A. Oster, DPM
Medical Advisor

Updated 12/27/19

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