During this cold and flu season, it’s especially important to be aware of germs. Hopefully, you’re already washing your hands regularly and getting plenty of rest to help ward off any illness. However, what you might not have considered is your toothbrush. You put this device in your mouth every day (hopefully twice per day for at least two minutes, if you’re brushing your teeth like the American Dental Association recommends). Unfortunately, your toothbrush could be hosting millions of microorganisms, some of which could make you ill. At Dr. Craig Armstrong’s Houston dental office, we’re dedicated to improving our patients’ oral and overall well-being. In the following blog, we explain how your toothbrush could make you sick and what you can do to stay healthy.
What if we told you that there is a whole host of germs in your mouth at this very moment? In all likelihood, there is, but it’s probably perfectly safe. Most mouths are home to myriad microorganisms, most of which are ultimately innocuous if properly managed. As Mayo Clinic explains, “like many areas of your body, your mouth is teeming with bacteria — most of them harmless. Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these bacteria under control.” Good oral hygiene is essential to keeping you free from illness. However, the situation can become more complicated if your toothbrush, which is a key hygienic guard against sickness, actually harbors some of the germs you’re trying to avoid.
Your toothbrush is an important component of your oral hygiene, but regrettably, it can also be a source of sickness. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) reports that, “according to researchers, there can be as many as 1.2 million bacteria on a single toothbrush. Also, a New York State Dental Journal found that 70% of used toothbrushes are contaminated with these bacteria.” UAMS notes: “researchers have found the flu virus, staph bacteria, E. coli, yeast fungus and strep virus hanging out on used toothbrushes.”
Furthermore, toothbrushes can spread serious infections. As per a 2006 article in the Journal of Viral Hepatitis, a study indicated “at least a theoretical risk of [hepatitis C] infection by sharing these objects,” thereby “strengthening the recommendations to take care of a clear separation of these personal objects between patients and their household members.” Similarly, a 2001 piece in the Journal of the American Dental Association noted in its “clinical implications” that “dental professionals should advise patients who have systemic, localized or oral inflammatory diseases to disinfect or frequently replace their toothbrushes” since “contaminated toothbrushes have been shown to harbor and transmit viruses and bacteria.”
There are a few different reasons toothbrushes may house bacteria, viruses, or other germs.
First of all, toothbrushes go inside your mouth every day, which, as we’ve mentioned above, is already home to various bacteria. Your spit and the water you wet your toothbrush with also make it more hospitable to microorganisms and mold. Additionally, a toothbrush’s tightly packed bristles can hold particulate matter.
The way most people tend to store their toothbrushes also makes these tools more germ-friendly. If your toothbrush can’t dry out, it will stay moist (and potentially warm), making it an even better host for microorganisms. As a Huffington Post “Ask a Scientist” article points out, “the moist environment provided by a recently rinsed toothbrush is rather hospitable to pathogens — they usually last longer on wet bristles.” Furthermore, most people tend to store their toothbrushes in the bathroom. When you take a shower, the room fills with steam, further moistening your toothbrush. Particulate matter from the toilet can also end up on your toothbrush when you flush.
Sharing your toothbrush with one or more other people increases all of these risks, so Dr. Armstrong and our team strongly advise against this. Using a toothbrush for longer than advised (typically, beyond about three months) can also make it more susceptible (as well as less effective at brushing).
The idea of a bacteria-infested toothbrush can be quite unnerving, especially since this oral implement is supposed to help you keep your mouth germ-free. Fortunately, there are a variety of simple, effective things you can do to keep your toothbrush as pristine as possible. Dr. Armstrong and our team recommend that you:
Following this advice should allow you to adequately protect yourself and your toothbrush from bacteria, viruses, and other germs.
Now you know how your toothbrush could contribute to your sickness and what to do to keep it clean, but what should you do if you do end up getting sick? Patients often wonder if they should throw out their old toothbrushes after a cold or flu.
According to an article for the Today Show, one “professor of microbiology and environmental sciences” explained that “when you recover from a particular virus, your body no longer remains susceptible to that strain,” so you shouldn’t be able to re-infect yourself with your toothbrush. However, as “Dr. Heather Rosen, medical director of UPMC North Huntington Urgent Care” puts it, “‘there are so many bacteria that can reside on a toothbrush…it is always best to get rid of it once you have been infected’” as a precaution. Furthermore, the Today Show notes that “replacing your toothbrush after illness reduces the chance that your nasty brush spreads its germs to anyone else’s nearby brushes.”
If you took excellent care of your and your family’s toothbrushes (following all of the advice above), it might be acceptable to keep your toothbrush after sickness, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Are you concerned about your toothbrush making you sick? Are you unsure which device to buy or how to properly brush your teeth? Dr. Armstrong and our team would be delighted to assist you. We’re here to answer your questions and provide oral hygiene advice. If it’s been more than six months since the last time you saw us, it’s time to schedule your next professional cleaning and examination. To find out more about toothbrush safety, contact our Houston dental office today.
Original Source: https://www.craigarmstrongdds.com/cleanings-and-prevention/could-your-toothbrush-make-you-sick/