The television show Inside Edition recently sent toothbrushes off to labs to find out just how “dirty” they really are. The results were nothing short of “yucky.”
While one family’s toothbrushes had no bacteria at all, one individual had three different kinds of bacteria, including E. coli, and another individual had two types of bacteria and a fungus. In addition to the organisms above, researchers who have studied toothbrushes have found flu virus, staph bacteria and strep. Why does this happen?
It’s because we are making several mistakes when storing our toothbrushes. Do you:
- Store your toothbrush near the toilet? Flushing the toilet can cause fecal matter to be sprayed into the air and onto your toothbrush.
- Put your toothbrush in a holder sitting on the sink? Dirty, bacteria-filled water can be splashed on it.
- Let your toothbrush touch your partner’s? Two words: cross contamination.
- Put a cover on your toothbrush or stick it in the medicine cabinet or drawer? While this may seem to be a good idea to protect your toothbrush from the things mentioned above, it’s actually not. The covers do not allow the bristles to dry, which can create a damp environment that allows bacteria to thrive.
Here are the things you should be doing in order to keep your toothbrush as clean as possible, particularly as we approach cold and flu season:
- Store your toothbrush upright in a rack or cup where it can dry out.
- If you use a toothbrush cover, find one that lets air circulate and prevents mold.
- Never share your toothbrush. This can transfer bacteria that can cause tooth decay.
- Rinse your toothbrush thoroughly with warm water after brushing.
- Once a week, soak your toothbrush in some antibacterial mouthwash or hydrogen peroxide for about 15 minutes. Don’t leave it in any longer because it can damage the bristles.
- Store your toothbrush away from the toilet and close the toilet lid before you flush.
- Change your toothbrush every two to three months or sooner if the bristles become splayed.
- If you have a cold or illness, change your toothbrush after you get well.
Don’t panic after reading this, though. According to the American Dental Association, there is not enough clinical evidence to claim that the bacteria on your toothbrush will result in oral health and general health problems. Remember, your mouth is already full of bacteria. The most important thing is to keep your toothbrush as clean as you can and see your dentist every six months to have your teeth cleaned and examined.