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Permanent link  Infection control in the dental office: Our interview with Midwinter speaker Dr. John Molinari

12/07/2009

John Molinari, Ph.D., author, lecturer, husband to a pediatric dentist, and father of seven, will be presenting the lecture "Respiratory Infections, Protection" at the Midwinter Meeting, along "Infection Control" and "Vaccination Recommendations for Healthcare Professionals." With current concerns about H1N1, his topic is timely.

Q: What drew you to the topic of respiratory infections in the dental office?

Dr. John Molinari: I've been a microbiologist in infectious diseases for many years. Respiratory infections are the most transmissible, and people in the dental profession are exposed to respiratory infections very routinely. A dentist wears a mask while he or she is working, but there are so many other opportunities for infection to be passed. There's a logical bond here with the professional exposure.

Q: What airborne infection causes the greatest concern for dentists this season?

JM: The flu. Both seasonal and H1N1, which has been around since April. Any pandemic strain of influenza, which crop up every few years, is more virulent. Everyone needs to be aware of the principles of normal infection.

Q: Which are the approaches to protection that dentists' offices can take that you'll be talking about in your lecture?

JM: Well, we're not just talking about the flu here, but also TB, Pertussis or the whooping cough. These are all easily transmitted. I'll be talking about how they are passed and how they work. Some of the preventative steps are, of course, vaccinations and hand washing. For dentists, masks are good. I'll be talking about he alternative use of alcohol hand rubs that everyone's carrying around in their purses and pockets these days.

But I'll also be talking about what the influenza vaccine is all about and why you need a new one each year. I'll be talking about how the vaccines are prepared, and I'll be clearing up a huge misunderstanding: You cannot get the flu from the vaccine. People hear the stories from their neighbors and their grandmothers and are afraid the vaccine will give them the flu. I had to go to extraordinary effort to convince my own mother to get the vaccine this year! She had heard from so many people that it could give you the flu--but who's the microbiologist here?

In any case, I'll be giving the people in my lecture the science and the background behind it. By the time they're finished, they're allies. They're junior microbiologists who can talk to their patients about this. People will believe what a dental hygienist or dentist tells them because they see them, they're familiar and comfortable.

I'll also be talking about TB and whooping cough as an emerging issue. When's the last time people thought about the whooping cough? We used to see this as something you were vaccinated against and never had to think of again. But we're seeing it in more adolescents and adults, and we're finding that the vaccine doesn't protect as long as they thought it did.

Q: How long have you been in the field of microbiology?

JM: I've been in the field for 44 years, including research, teaching, and as a clinical microbiologist. And I have not just focused on respiratory infections. I've researched and worked with AIDS, cancer, you name it. You have to have the clinical expertise to go along with the science.

Q: How many of these Midwinter Meetings have you attended? Do you have any tips or tricks for navigating the Meeting?

JM: I come every other year, and sometimes every year. There are just so many courses that are very, very good. If you're with other people, you'll have to split up and compare notes. It's such a traditionally good meeting as far as courses, you can't possibly see everything you want to see. And the exhibits are among the most extensive. You have to be prepared to spend a full few days there.

Q: What's your advice for visiting Chicago in February?

JM: Dress warmly! We've had everything from rain to snow to sleet.… I won't say we've had warm weather! If you want good food or entertainment in the city, you have your pick. And of course the shopping if you're into that. Chicago really has everything you could want … except the warm weather!

Q: Are you doing anything unusual over the holidays?

JM: Well, we have seven children. Three of our daughters are out of the house, and the last three are our thirteen-year-old triplets, and our oldest still at home is sixteen, so with four teenagers in the house, you can imagine! We'll be diving down to visit our families for the holidays--mine are in North Carolina and my wife Gail's are in Georgia. For Thanksgiving, with the older girls and grandchildren, we'll have sixteen family members along with four neighbors, so twenty people at the Thanksgiving table!

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