We all think that oral care begins with a good toothbrush. But do you know what is lurking in your toothbrush? Unlike popular belief, your toothbrush could be the reason you have so many oral or other health problems! Find out the ugly truth about your toothbrush!
At University of Manchester in England, researchers have made a startling discovery. Their research reveals that your toothbrush can harbour as many as 100 million bacteria, and not all of them are related to oral or dental problems. Your toothbrush can also harbour E.Coli bacteria or staphylococci bacteria, which could be the reason you have so many bouts of diarrhoea or skin infections.
Could Your Toothbrush Be Making You Sick?
Our mouth is full of bacteria, which is why we all put so much of stress on oral care. According to researchers at Dental Hygiene Research Center at Old Dominion University, the problem begins when there is an unhealthy balance of bacteria in the mouth. Remember, even plaque is a kind of bacteria, so basically you get bacteria in your brush every single time you brush!
But the fact is that your body’s natural defence system is pretty strong, and researchers have not yet been able to connect diseases to toothbrushes, even though these pack a lot of germs. Some scientists believe it is because your immunity system fights those diseases constantly, and makes sure you don’t fall sick just by brushing your teeth.
But even then, you could be making simple mistakes like using the same toothbrush for too long, sharing your toothbrush or even keeping the toothbrush too close to the toilet; which are all increasing your risk to catch infections from the bacteria lurking in your toothbrush.
Fact is, you can catch infections like a cold, a blood borne disease (think Hepatitis B or C) or even bacterial infections if you take a chance and use someone else’s toothbrush. Bad news is that the wet bristles of an infected toothbrush even passes on some virus and bacteria to the rim of your toothpaste tube! Recently, a study published in New York State Dental Journal revealed that 70% of all used toothbrushes are heavily contaminated with microorganisms.
What Organisms Could My Toothbrush Be Hiding?
There are lots of germs your toothbrush could be harbouring, unknown to you. But the 5 nastiest and most dangerous germs found on used toothbrushes are:
1. Staph – The Staphylococcus aureus is a nasty bacterium that causes skin infections like sties and boils. If it enters your blood stream, it can have some serious bad effects.
2. Flu Virus – The influenza virus is probably the most common virus found on toothbrushes, which can cause chills, fevers, colds, coughs and body aches.
3. Yeast – In Australia, researchers at University of Adelaide found that almost 70% of used toothbrushes checked harbour the Candida albicans, a fungus which causes yeast infections.
4. E. Coli – A faecal bacteria that causes abdominal cramps and even diarrhoea, these are commonly found on toothbrushes lying in the open.
5. Strep – These streptococci bacteria can give you strep throat or even cause tooth decay.
Now that you know what germs could be in your toothbrush, let us find out if you are making these common mistakes with your toothbrush, which increases your risk factor to falling sick.
Are You Guilty Of Making These Mistakes With Your Toothbrush?
Mostly, the bacteria and germs in your toothbrush will not increase your risk to infections. These bacteria are already present in your body in small amounts, so your immunity system is well aware of how to fight infections caused by these culprits.
But there are a few sins you could be making with your toothbrush, that increases your risk factor. Find out if you are making these common mistakes; and if you are, it is time to act upon it and change your toothbrush storing habits.
1. Do you flush where you brush?
Most houses and apartments have small bathrooms. And often, your commode or EWC is very close to the bathroom sink. If your toothbrush sits on the sink counter all day, it is possible it attracts a lot more bacteria than what you think. Every single time you flush the toilet, you send a whole array of germs and bacteria spraying in to the air. So, your open toothbrush can get a lot of these germs. You don’t store your plates and glasses near your toilet, do you? So why store your brush there?! Use a closed bathroom cabinet to keep your toothbrush away from unhealthy germs coming from the flush!
2. Do you rinse and keep your toothbrush dry?
Many people simply brush their teeth, throw a little water on the toothbrush and leave it like that. That can be a huge mistake. Firstly, until you rinse your toothbrush thoroughly, it will harbour a lot of active bacteria in it. Secondly, leaving your toothbrush wet makes it more prone to harbouring more bacteria, as these organisms really love a moist environment and thrive on your toothbrush! In fact, it is best to avoid toothbrush covers as these reduce chances of your toothbrush air drying.
3. Has your toothbrush out-lived its expiration date?
The best way to reduce your risk of getting infections passed on through toothbrushes is to change your toothbrush often. No, toothbrush sanitizers are not an ideal solution, as scientists have not really found positive evidence that these do their job as well as they promise. The American Dental Association recommends that you must change your toothbrush every two to three months. Since the bristles can harbour germs for a long time, you can fall sick again because of the same bacteria. You might have treated that bad case of throat infection with antibiotics, but as soon as your immunity system gets weakened, you will find yourself fighting the same infection once more. And the culprit will be that toothbrush you failed to change once you recovered.
4. Do you share your toothbrush?
It doesn’t matter how close you are to your sister, brother or even spouse. Sharing a toothbrush with ANYONE is a bad idea. In fact, it isn’t advisable to even keep your toothbrush too close to someone else’s because germs can swap easily! Keep your toothbrush to yourself, and keep it in a separate container, always kept upright.
5. Do you change a toothbrush when sick?
If you have a bad throat infection, or even a skin infection, it is best to change your toothbrush. Replacing your toothbrush reduces chances for other members of the family being sick (if their toothbrushes lies near yours when stored) and also ensures you don’t catch the same infection again. In fact, it is best to even use a separate toothpaste tube when sick, so that your brush cannot leave strains of the bacteria or virus on the rim of the toothpaste tube.
A toothbrush cover is one of the best investments you will ever make for your health. Trust me!
You THINK your toothbrush is the key to good oral health, keeping you safe from many diseases. But if you aren’t careful, this very toothbrush could very well be the SOURCE of disease.