Keep Your Toothbrush Clean!

Dentists always remind patients of the importance of brushing to promote good oral and overall health. Taking care of your toothbrush is also essential, as there are hundreds of types of microorganisms in the oral cavity that can be transferred to the toothbrush during use.

The “Original” Modern Toothbrush

William Addis invented the modern toothbrush in 1780 during a stint in an English jail after being inspired by a broom. Before that, most people in Europe cleaned their teeth by applying some type of gritty substance (chalk, salt, ground eggshells) with a cloth. Addis’ took an animal bone from a meal and carved holes into it. Then he attached knotted boar bristles. Unfortunately, the boar bristles attracted bacterial growth.

A Recent Toothbrush Study

Speaking of bacterial growth on toothbrushes, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center Houston (UTHealth) School of Dentistry recently studied bacteria growth on different types of toothbrushes. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Dental Hygiene in August. The study examined solid-head toothbrushes and hollow-head toothbrushes over a three-week period and found microbial counts were lower in solid-head toothbrushes in 9 out of 10 comparisons.

According to Donna Warren Morris, R.D.H., M.Ed., the lead researcher and a professor at UTHealth School of Dentistry, a solid-head design prevents bacteria from growing out of control. Morris shared the following tips for toothbrush care:

  • Disinfect your toothbrush regularly
  • Let it dry between uses
  • Consider a power toothbrush with an ultraviolet system
  • If necessary, soak the head in mouthwash for 20 minutes

Morris also stressed that it is difficult to recognize a hollow-head versus a solid-head toothbrush design based on most power toothbrush packaging. She was quoted as saying, “The best way to identify a solid-head design is through the connection to the body of the power toothbrush. Naturally, there will be some space to connect the two parts but a significant portion will be solid, up to the bristles or brush head.”

The American Dental Association recommends the following to keep toothbrushes clean.

  1. Toothbrushes should never be shared, because it puts people at risk of infection. Although this is true for all toothbrush users, it is especially important for people with compromised immune systems.
  2. After brushing, users should rinse toothbrushes with tap water, which will remove debris. Toothbrushes should be stored in an upright position, separate from other toothbrushes to prevent cross-contamination.
  3. Toothbrushes should not be stored routinely in closed containers because they will remain moist. Microorganisms thrive in a moist environment.
  4. Everyone should replace their toothbrush at least once every three to four months. Frayed bristles do not clean as effectively.

When buying a toothbrush, consider the type of bristles. Soft toothbrushes are often more comfortable and encourage people to brush longer. Also make sure the toothbrush head is not too large to get at all areas of your mouth. In addition, consider a non-slip handle and flexible neck, for reaching further into your mouth. A toothbrush with the ADA Seal of Acceptance on the packaging means it has been scientifically evaluated to be safe and effective.

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Ensure Your Child’s Safety with a Custom Mouthguard

According to a 2014 study published in General Dentistry—the peer-reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD)—custom mouthguards may reduce the risk of concussion in athletes. With school sports getting back into full swing, it is important for families to consider custom mouthguards for young athletes.

Researchers studied 412 high school football players from six teams to determine whether store-bought mouthguardsprotected their mouths as well as custom mouthguards. Three teams were randomly assigned the custom mouthguards, and three teams chose their own standard mouthguards. All of the players wore the same style of helmet.

Researchers found that those players wearing the over-the-counter (OTC) mouthguards were more than twice as likely to suffer mild traumatic brain injuries/concussions as players wearing properly fitted custom-made mouthguards. (While 8.3 percent of athletes in the OTC mouthguard group suffered concussion injuries, only 3.6 of the athletes with custom mouthguards suffered injuries.) According to previous studies, custom mouthguards may reduce concussion risks because they stabilize the head and neck and absorb shock when there is a direct hit to the jaw.

Lead author Jackson Winters, DDS is a pediatric dentist with 28 years of experience officiating high school and college football. Dr. Winters said, “Researchers and, most importantly, parents, are looking for ways to better protect children against concussions. Consumers may believe that today’s advanced helmet design provides sufficient protection, but our research indicates that, when compared to over-the-counter versions, a custom-made, properly fitted mouthguard also is essential to player safety.”

The thickness of the mouthguard may also be a variable. For the study, the custom mouthguards had an average thickness of 3.50 millimeters and the OTC mouthguards had an average thickness of only 1.65 millimeters.

Dr. Winters explains, “Although more research on this topic is needed, our study shows the value of a custom-made mouthguard, the benefits of protecting your child far outweigh the costs associated with a dental or medical injury, which is likelier to occur with a store-bought model.”

Regardless, the American Dental Association states that 1/3 of all mouth injuries may be sports-related. Mouthguards offer considerable protection against facial injuries, lost teeth, broken teeth, fractured crowns and root damage. Children should wear mouthguards when participating in contact sports such as football and boxing, as well as incidental contact sports such as volleyball and gymnastics.

In addition to custom mouthguards, which the dentist fits to each individual mouth, there are two types of OTC mouthguards: stock and boil and bite. Stock mouthguards typically come in sizes small, medium and large. These pre-formed mouthguards can be worn right away, but it can be challenging to get a proper fit, as they are not adapted to individual mouths. Boil and bite mouthguards are another option. They get their name from the requirement that you boil them in hot water before molding them to your teeth.

To keep your mouthguard in good condition:

1. Rinse it before and after using with cool, soapy water.

2. Don’t leave it in the sun.

3. Transport it in sturdy vented container.

If you have further questions about finding the right mouthguard for your child, or have suffered a sports-related dental injury, give us a call!

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Back to School Lesson: How Clean Were King Richard III’s Teeth?

As we approach the fall season, it’s time for children to head back to school. Here is an interesting lesson for students of all ages—a look at oral hygiene in the Middle Ages. Many myths and facts have been published about the way people took care of their teeth during this time period. Giovanni of Arcoli, known as Johannes Arculanus, was a professor of medicine and surgery at Bologna during the 15th century, and was the first to mention filling decayed teeth with gold. Fortunately, researchers were able to gain a deeper understanding of medieval dentistry when the remains of King Richard III were found under a council car park (government parking lot) in Leicester, England in 2012.

Who Was King Richard III?

King Richard III was born October 2, 1452 to his father Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, and mother Cecily Neville. Richard lost his father and older brother in 1460 at the Battle of Wakefield. In 1470, Richard and his brother King Edward IV were exiled after Henry VI briefly took back the throne. But Edward IV was restored to the thrown the following year. When King Edward IV died in 1483, Richard became responsible for the safety of his nephew King Edward V, who was only 12 years old. After a destructive publicity campaign, King Edward V lost the throne to Richard. In 1485, King Richard III was killed in battle on Bosworth Field in Leicestershire.

The King’s Remains

On February 4, 2013, experts confirmed that the remains found in Leicester were that of King Richard III. A study published in the British Dental Journal two months later reported that Richard III suffered from poor oral health, including dental caries (decay) and excessive tartar buildup. These findings support earlier research that found members of the higher social classes during the Middle Ages actually had more significant dental caries than those of lower social classes. According to Dr. Amit Rai, the study’s author, “For the lower social classes, access to limited range of dietary sugars and the consistent inability to cook carbohydrates resulted in a reduced caries experience.”

Researchers who examined the remains found that Richard III was missing several teeth, most likely due to dental caries. The mineralized deposits on the surfaces of his maxillary teeth were considered evidence of tartar buildup. On the other hand, researchers found less evidence of deposits on the upper right central incisor, leading them to believe that Richard III had “some degree of insight with dental hygiene, however basic.” In addition, there was “evidence of gap closure on two of the missing teeth which points to the early extraction of these teeth by skilled hands.”


The study found that barber surgeons legally practiced dentistry at the time of Richard III, although it was mainly unregulated. “The provision of dentistry in the 15th century was surprisingly sophisticated with evidence of restorative advances,” the study concluded.

Sources: National Center of Biotechnology Information,, American Psychological Association

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