Do you know that your toothbrush could be dirtier than your toilet seat? A toilet bowl can contain upwards of 3.2 million bacteria per square inch, according to an infographic by Bath-based bathroom designer, Soakology.co.uk. On the other hand, DailyMail.co.uk reports that a toothbrush can contain 200,000 more bacteria per square inch. Millions of microorganisms can be found at the bristles of a single toothbrush. Some of these microorganisms are harmless yet some can be dangerous to your health.
A 2012 study, which was published by Nursing Research and Practice, found that toothbrush storage is crucial to bacteria survival. Most toothbrushes are being kept in the sink which is close to the toilet. Every time the toilet is flushed with an open lid, bacteria are released into the air. The bacteria from fecal matter can include Escherichia coli or E. coli, a bacteria most commonly associated with gastrointestinal disease.
Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria responsible for tooth decay, can also live in your toothbrushes, states Erin McCarthy on MentalFloss.com. Moreover, Lactobacillus, and Pseudomonas (a bacteria that causes eye infections), viruses like herpes simplex type (used to be called “oral herpes”), and Human papillomavirus (connected with oral cancer, cervical cancer, and esophageal cancer) can also be found in your toothbrush. You could put yourself at risk of spreading these around your mouth and gums every time you brush your teeth.
Fortunately, simple habits and hygienic practices can lower your chances of using a bacteria-riddled toothbrush. You should throw out and replace those brushes with bristles that have become frayed. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends replacing your toothbrush every three or four months, however, you can do this sooner if your toothbrush has begun showing signs of wear.
Aside from this, storage also plays a big part in keeping your toothbrush safe for use. Keep your toothbrush far from the toilet and maintain a clean toothbrush holder, one that holds your toothbrush upright rather than lying down. A wet toothbrush encourages bacterial growth. According to OnHealth.com, you should allow your toothbrush to dry thoroughly in between brushing. See to it that that the brushes are kept separate if more than one toothbrush occupies the same toothbrush holder in order to prevent the chances of cross-contamination.
Avoid interchanging toothbrushes as this can result in an exchange of bodily fluids as well as microorganisms, thus placing yourself at risk of infection. You can decrease your chances of using a toothbrush harboring E.coli by closing your toilet lid before flushing it, and then wash your hand before flushing the toilet and before using your toothbrush. Remove any remaining food debris and toothpaste from your toothbrush by carefully rinsing it after using.
Dr. Maria Geisinger, Assistant Professor, and Periodontist at the University Of Alabama at Birmingham states that toothbrushes with clear or lighter bristles are better than the colored ones. Up to fifty percent fewer bacteria are retained by toothbrushes with clear bristles. Moreover, Geisinger suggests using toothbrushes with solid plastic handles as these have fewer spaces for bacteria to hide and germinate in.
Kimberly Harms, Dentist and Consumer Adviser for the ADA state that:
“Excellent oral care also helps. Bacteria cause gum disease, and decay, and bad breath. Rinsing your mouth with a natural antiseptic solution before you brush your teeth can eliminate any bacteria lingering in your mouth before they get to your toothbrush.”