If you’re like most people, you probably don’t appreciate the kind of unsavory germs and bacteria that can accumulate on a toothbrush between uses.
Your most useful tool in the fight against tooth decay and gum disease could harbor a variety of hazards, including intestinal bacteria, yeasts, coliforms and Staphylococci, according to a report from researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry.
The human mouth is home to hundreds of microorganisms that can be easily transferred to a toothbrush during use. Some of these organisms are responsible for causing gum disease and tooth decay, the two major oral diseases most adults face. However, because toothbrushes are often stored in the bathroom, the possibility exists that your toothbrush could even harbor gastrointestinal microorganisms such as fecal germs.
These organisms, referred to as enteric bacteria, can fester on the bristles of a toothbrush and enter the mouth due to improper hand-washing or from the microscopic droplets of water that are expelled into the air each time you flush the toilet, according to researchers.
If this sounds too disgusting to be true, consider that the Discovery Channel hit “Mythbusters” tested 24 toothbrushes in an episode and discovered enteric microorganisms on every brush, even those that had never been inside of a bathroom.
So what can you do to help reduce the risk of your toothbrush become infected by germs, bacteria and other nasty stuff? Here are a few tips recommended by researchers.
Clean Your Brush
The purpose of a toothbrush is to remove bacteria and lingering food particles from you teeth and gums. It only stands to reason then that once you’re done brushing, food particles and bacteria that you removed from your mouth will linger on the toothbrush.
Make sure you thoroughly rinse your brush with clean water after brushing to wash away any remaining debris or toothpaste. For an extra layer of protection, you may also want to consider soaking your brush in an antibacterial mouthwash for one minute after brushing.
Properly Store Your Brush
Once a brush is cleaned, you need to store it in an upright position and allow it to air dry. Never store your toothbrush in a closed container because a damp environment allows for the rapid growth of microorganisms. If you store more than one brush in the same place, make sure you keep them separated to avoid any cross-contamination. Finally, always store your toothbrush as far away from the toilet as possible.
Get Your Own
Never share a toothbrush, regardless if it’s with a family member or loved one. While this may seem fairly obvious, surveys have found that many married couples admit to sharing a toothbrush – and the germs it contains – between them.
Frequently Replace Your Brush
You need to replace your brush at least once every three months or as soon as the bristles start to fray, whichever occurs first.
Replace Your Brush After an Illness
Any type of virus or infection that can be spread through the transmission of bodily fluids can take root in a toothbrush used by a sick individual. This can easily spread an illness if the toothbrush of an infected individual comes into contact with a healthy family member or roommate. To reduce the risk of passing on an illness, make sure to replace your brush after an illness if possible.
If you have any other questions on toothbrushing or other dental issues, please contact our Tigard Oregon dental office today!