If you’re like most people, you probably don’t know – or maybe even want to know – how much gross stuff finds its way onto your toothbrush.
Your number one tool in the fight against tooth decay and gum disease may actually harbor such potential hazards as intestinal bacteria, yeasts, coliforms and Staphylococci, the bacteria responsible for staph infections, according to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry.
Your mouth is home to hundreds of different types of microorganisms, many of which can transfer over to your toothbrush during brushing. Some of these organisms can lead to the development of tooth decay and periodontal disease – the two most common types of oral disease among adults.
While you can probably expect that a toothbrush would collect bacteria found in the mouth, other types of bacteria found on toothbrushes can come as quite the shock. Worst yet, your toothbrush may even contain fecal germs.
Since most toothbrushes are stored in bathrooms, they are exposed to gastrointestinal organisms that may be transferred into the body via a fecal-oral route, say researchers. These organism, referred to as enteric bacteria, can find their way onto toothbrushes and into unsuspecting mouths due to poor hand-washing practices or from the microscopic droplets of water that are thrown into the air each time a toilet is flushed.
While this may seem too disgusting to believe, its validity was established most recently on the television program Mythbusters, which tested 24 toothbrushes and found enteric microorganisms on each and every one, even those that hadn’t been inside a bathroom.
So what steps can you take to help keep your toothbrush from collecting unwanted bacteria? Here are a few tips.
Clean your toothbrush.
Make sure to thoroughly rinse your brush with tap water after each use to remove any lingering bits of food and toothpaste. You may also want to consider soaking your brush in an antibacterial rinse for a few minutes after every use, as well.
Correctly store your toothbrush.
Allow your toothbrush to air dry while standing upright after every use. Don’t keep your brush in a closed container because a damp environment better suits the conditions needed to grow microorganisms. If you store more than one toothbrush together at home, consider moving them separate areas to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
Regularly replace your brush.
Your toothbrush needs replacing every three to four month or as soon as the bristles become worn or frayed looking.
While this may seem pretty obvious, surveys have found that a high percentage of spouses admit to sharing toothbrushes, meaning they also share any bacteria that brush may contain.
Buy a new brush after an illness.
Any illness capable of being transferred through bodily fluids can also be transferred from a toothbrush. Make an effort to separate your brush while sick from any other used in the home and to replace your brush once you have recovered.
Wash those hands.
An important step for maintaining your health in general, always make sure to properly wash your hands following the use of the toilet.