Some really icky news came out recently from a study presented at the American Society for Microbiology Meeting. Researchers tested toothbrushes from students’ communal bathrooms at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut and found that more than 60 percent of toothbrushes in shared bathrooms tested positive for fecal matter.
And even worse: there was an 80 percent chance that the fecal matter was from someone else who shared the bathroom.
There were two species of bacteria that were likely to contaminate toothbrushes: Enterobacteriaceae and Pseudomonadaceae. While these are normal bacteria that are found in the gut, you do not really want other people’s gut bacteria on your toothbrush, and some forms of this bacteria can cause illnesses such as food poisoning.
According to the American Dental Association, here is how to properly care for and store your toothbrush:
- Do not cover your toothbrush or store in a closed container (even though this may be counterintuitive to protecting it from things floating in the air and settling on your toothbrush). Why? A moist environment actually encourages the growth of microorganisms.
- After you brush, thoroughly rinse your toothbrush with tap water to remove any toothpaste or other debris. Interestingly, the study found that there was no difference between rinsing the toothbrush in cold or hot water or with an antibacterial mouthwash.
- Store your toothbrush in an upright position and allow it to air dry before using it again.
- If another toothbrush is stored in the same area, do not allow them to touch in order to prevent cross contamination.
- Never share a toothbrush with another person. This places you at risk for more infections.
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months.
- There is no clinical evidence that using a commercially available toothbrush sanitizer will clean a toothbrush any better than rinsing with tap water. Also, if you are considering using a dishwasher or a microwave oven, know that this may damage the toothbrush.
Use the commonsense approach and treat your toothbrush properly! Questions? Contact Enlighten Dental Care at (336) 765-0904.