Soap As An Antiseptic


Dental Therapy Editor


                In reviewing the literature on the medicinal properties of soap we find many references to its value as a germicidal agent but an article appearing in The Journal of the A.M.A. of March, 1927, by M. A. Reasoner, M.D., and William D. Gill, M.D., both of the United States Army “The use of soap in the prophylaxis of Vincent’s infection,” is of especial interest to us as dentists.

Vincent’s infection is an acute infectious disease probably due to the combined action of a spirochete and a fusiform bacillus, it may occur in the pharynx and mouth or only in the mouth as the commonly known Trench mouth.

The clinical picture of this condition of acute inflammation, sloughing, etc., is too well known to need description here.

In the article referred to, Reasoner and Gill state that from their standpoint soap is the most valuable constituent of the various tooth pastes. They refer to the experimental investigations conducted by Nichols and Walker on the bactericidal properties of the various fatty salts found in soap, Walker is of the opinion that 8 per cent of soap will be found in the average lather. He conducted a series of experiments showing conclusively the germicidal effect of soap solution on the bacteria found in saliva. Lauric acid soap was first shown to have the most general action as a germicide, this acid is found in greater proportion in coconut oil, a solution of 1:50000 was found sufficient to kill pneumococcus in fifteen minutes and a 1:3000 killed the streptococcus, a 1 per cent solution the typhoid bacillus in the same length of time.

McBain has disproved the opinion formally held by some that the germicidal action of soap is due to the presence of free alkali.

The same authors conducted a series of clinical experiments taking a number of cases of mild Vincent’s infection (25), treating them with a 6 per cent gel, also using a gargle of 1 per cent every half hour; a clinical cure was affected in all cases; the average time to achieve this result was 7.12 days.

They do not recommend soap to be used as a cure as they found it takes longer to produce results but stress the point that the proper use of soap and soap compounds is rather that of a prophylactic than a method of cure.

This department has received a number of requests to publish some data on the new desensitizing agent discovered by Dr. L.L. Hartman of the Columbia School of Dentistry. The reports that have come to us are slightly conflicting but the majority of them agree that it undoubtedly acts successfully as a desensitizer. If this be true the all important question is its effect to the vitality of the pulp tissue. It is presumed that Dr. Hartman has recorded a sufficient number of cases where it has been used to justify a positive statement in this regard.

The desensitizer has now been made available to the profession by the Detroit Dental Mfg. Co., The Cook-Antidolar Company, and the Novol Company.



                “A certain cure for toothache is to get a prepossessing young woman to lay her cheek against yours on the side where the pain is.” (Dr. Isaac Fletcher in the Daily Express.)

In early times man’s spiritual wealth,

Was counted largely by his health.

The evil act, the wicked whim,

Like boomerangs returned to him.

The doubtful word most surely brought

A welt, a whitlow or a wart

(Degrees of guilt you recognize

That govern quality and size).

The greater did the culprit, err,

The more severe the sanctions were.

Later on we came to see

That illness held us all in fee.

God gave science to our aid

That tracked the germs that illness made.

But now the course of evolution

Affects once more the constitution.

Love and Beauty supersede

The doctor’s scientific creed.

The charms of Botticelli make

A certain cure for belly-ache.

Keats beneath the head at night

Will banish sleeplessness outright.

A lovely face beside your own

Will kill the pain that made you moan.

So now man’s spiritual wealth

Is truly governed by his health.


St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Journal, Dec. 1935.