Most of us simply assume that using our toothbrushes will suffice when it comes to our teeth, but sometimes toothbrushes can actually be the cause of some dental problems. In between the bristles lurks germs, bacteria, fungi, and viruses that can survive for several months on your toothbrush, most importantly without your knowledge. Scientists have discovered that a single toothbrush can more than 10 million bacteria. How scary is that?
These lingering microorganisms will multiply over time and can actually become a serious detriment to your dental health and other bodily issues. Here are some examples of microorganisms that could be causing problems in your mouth and in your body and live on your toothbrush.
Acid Producing Bacterium: Streptococcus
Streptococci stick around the oral cavity area. Mutans streptococcus produces acid that is effective at attacking tooth enamel minerals. This can cause several tooth disorders such as tooth decay and dental caries (or in layman’s terms: cavaties.)
Strep throat is caused by the bacterium beta-hemolytic streptococcus. Dental plaque is filled with tons of streptococcus sanguis. This type of bacterium will not only modify its environment in order to ensure that other strains of streptococcus will not survive and take over, but it will also attempt to damage other portions of your body. During dental cleanings, this strain of the bacterium has been known to slip through into the blood stream and find its way into heart valves and cause a whole lot of damage to the heart and its arteries.
Herpes simplex virus or Oral Herpes
More commonly known as cold sores, this type infection is usually found on the inside of the mouth or on the lips. Herpes simplex is extremely contagious. Once a person has become infected with the virus, there is no cure and they are stuck with the condition for the rest of their lives. Outbreaks usually occur frequently when the person first becomes infected, but the outbreaks slowly decrease over time.
Bacteria…from the Toilet?
While it may seem normal to keep your toothbrush in the bathroom, like most Americans do, it’s probably going to be near the toilet. While this may be convenient for you, it is actually extremely unsanitary. Every time the toilet flushes, bacteria is able to become airborne and is capable of traveling up to five feet away from the toilet in any direction. Store your toothbrush as far as possible from your toilet in order to prevent toilet bacteria from infecting your toothbrush.
Influenza virus or the Flu
Have you ever wondered why you might have a sore throat for a while or a cold and you’ve been doing everything to get it to go away but it just doesn’t seem to want to leave your body? You might actually be re-infecting yourself each time you use your toothbrush. You also want to make sure you don’t infect others in your family with your toothbrush, so keep it separated from the other toothbrushes. One suggestion is to get a toothbrush holder that contains separate slots for each toothbrush.
Cleaning and Replacing Toothbrushes
Cleaning and replacing your toothbrush on a regular basis is one of the best hygienic moves you can make for both you and your family. Using the same toothbrush for a period of time more than three months can actually cause microorganisms to infect or re-infect your mouth and teeth over and over.
Allowing your toothbrush to dry out between brushings is a way to keep microorganisms from becoming attracted to your toothbrush if it is placed in a damp and dark environment. First rinse your toothbrush in order to sure all lingering food debris has gotten off of the bristles. Next, shake your toothbrush dry after each use and store in an upright position so gravity can help get the water away from the bristles. If you want to be extra careful, try having two toothbrushes, one for the morning and one for the night to ensure that each toothbrush will be dry by the time you use it next.
Other techniques such as soaking the toothbrush in hydrogen peroxide, mouthwash, or diluted beach are popular. While these may be somewhat effective, there’s no way to truly prevent microorganisms from building up in your toothbrush except for actually replacing your toothbrush with a new one.