That humble implement meant to help you clean your teeth, get rid of plaque and prevent cavities may harbor such hazards as Staphylococci, coliforms, yeasts and intestinal bacteria, according to Dr. Maria Geisinger, a periodontist at theUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Dentistry.
“The oral cavity is home to hundreds of different types of microorganisms, which can be transferred to a toothbrush during use,” Geisinger said in a UAB press release.
And some of these organisms can cause dental decay and periodontal disease — the two major dental diseases in adults.
But wait, there’s more. Your toothbrush may even carry fecal germs.
“Most toothbrushes are stored in bathrooms, which exposes them to gastrointestinal microorganisms that may be transferred via a fecal-oral route,” Geisinger said.
These organisms, called enteric bacteria, can transfer to toothbrushes and into people’s mouths due to inadequate hand-washing or the microscopic droplets released from the toilet during flushing, according to Geisinger.
So what can you do to help reduce these dangers and keep the gross stuff off your brush and away from your mouth? Geisinger offers these tips–
Clean your brush. “You should thoroughly rinse toothbrushes with potable tap water after brushing to remove any remaining toothpaste and debris,” Geisinger said. She also recommends soaking your toothbrushes in an antibacterial mouth rinse.
Store the brush properly. Leave your toothbrush in an upright position and allow it to air dry. Don’t store the brush in a closed container because a damp environment is more conducive to the growth of microorganisms. If more than one brush is stored in an area, keeping them separate to prevent cross-contamination.
Buy a new brush often. “Toothbrushes should be replaced at least every three to four months or when bristles become frayed and worn, whichever comes first,” Geisinger said.
Don’t share! This seems like a no-brainer, but a large proportion of spouses admit to sharing toothbrushes, meaning that they are also sharing the bacteria on those brushes.
Get a new brush if you’ve been sick. “Any illness that can be transmitted through body fluids should warrant separation of the toothbrush of the infected individual and, if economically feasible, replacement of the toothbrush after the illness,” Geisinger said.
Wash, wash, wash! And please, wash your hands after using the toilet and prior to using your toothbrush.
Geisinger also recommends that people use mouth rinse prior to brushing and get routine dental care, including regular cleanings.