What has tiny bristles, lives in your bathroom and can house five of the nastiest germs, including the flu virus? If you guessed your toothbrush, you’re correct. According to researchers, there can be as many as 1.2 million bacteria on a single toothbrush. Also, a New York State Dental Journal found that 70% of used toothbrushes are contaminated with these bacteria.
What kinds of germs were found? Researchers have found the flu virus, staph bacteria, E. coli, yeast fungus and strep virus hanging out on used toothbrushes. But, can your toothbrush actually make you sick?
It is possible to become sick by using a germy toothbrush. However, with the help of our immune system and everyday good hygiene habits, it is unlikely that your toothbrush will make you sick. But, there is still a chance for these bacteria to break through our defenses.
How can get sick from something used to keep you healthy and clean? Researchers say, and director of the UAMS Oral Health Clinic Dr. David Stillwell agrees, that the germ problem lies in how and where we store our toothbrushes. Bathrooms are the perfect place for bacteria to grow — they are moist and steamy. In addition, it’s not helpful that most toothbrushes sit next to the toilet.
To avoid a germy toothbrush, put these helpful tips into practice:
- Wash your hands before and after brushing.
- Change your toothbrush every three months or whenever you have the flu or a cold. You should also change when the bristles become worn.
- Alternate between two brushes to make sure you use a completely dry brush.
- Store your brush away from the toilet, and close the lid before flushing.
- Do not share brushes and avoid storing toothbrushes together.
- Rinse your toothbrush thoroughly after every brush with hot water. For a more effective rinse, submerge your brush in hydrogen peroxide or alcohol-based mouthwash.
- Let your brush air-dry before putting a cap on the head or storing it away.
- Use a different tube of toothpaste if you or someone else in your family is sick.