A toothbrush is a great tool to help keep your mouth healthy. Mouth bacteria have been linked to heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia, low birth weight babies and many other conditions. So removing it is an important part of health prevention. But could your toothbrush actually make you ill?
As unpleasant as it may sound, your toothbrush can be a good place for bacteria to grow, and bacteria can make you sick. There are several things that you can do to minimize the risks.
When you put your toothbrush away while it is still wet, your are making germ’s life easier. The Center for Disease Control suggests not only rinsing your toothbrush thoroughly after brushing to wash away bacteria from your mouth, but letting it air dry – standing upright. Bacteria love moisture - so make sure that your brush drys out and avoid using toothbrush covers which create a moist enclosed breeding ground for bacteria.
Do not store your toothbrush on a counter near the toilet. Most bathroom designs have the toilet very close to the sink/counter. A study done at the University of Arizona showed that every toilet flush sends a spray of aerosols containing bacteria into the air. The aerosols can travel as far as 6 to 8 feet, and stay in the air for at least two hours after each flush, before settling on bathroom surfaces including your toothbrush. You wouldn’t store your dishes or silverware close to the toilet – why would you store your toothbrush there?
Do not share your toothbrush with anyone! Most of us are taught that sharing is good, and while that is true for most things, it does not hold true for toothbrushes! The bacteria from your mouth can live on your toothbrush for days. You cannot re-infect yourself with a cold or virus you have already had, but you could infect someone else. Also toothbrush bristles, no matter how soft, can cause minute wounds to the gingiva depending on how you brush. This can leave minor traces of blood on the brush. If someone else uses your brush, they can be exposed to your bacteria and blood. You should also avoid storing everyone’s toothbrush in the same cup. When toothbrushes touch – they can swap germs!
Replace your toothbrush every 3 months. Not only are older toothbrushes more likely to host bacteria, they become less helpful in removing bacteria in your mouth. Sharp edges can cut gums, giving bacteria a place to thrive which can cause illness or infection.