Dr. Brett L. Johnson

General & Cosmetic Dentistry

A Hidden Danger, Could Your Toothbrush Make You Sick?

When it comes to thing that can make you ill, you’re probably more likely to think about eating two-week-old chicken, stepping on a rusty nail, or even getting bitten by a rabid werewolf before considering your toothbrush. A friend and most trusted ally in the fight against tooth decay and gum disease, your toothbrush is covered in a wide variety of germs, according to researchers at the University of Manchester in merry old England. In a recent study, researchers discovered over 100 million bacteria living on an uncovered toothbrush, including E. coli, a bacteria that can cause diarrhea, and staphylococci, a bacteria that can cause skin infections.

But before you panic by setting your brush on fire, and running out to by 365 new brushes for the coming new year, you should know your mouth wasn’t that clean to begin with.

Your Dirty Mouth

Even the healthiest of mouths contain millions of bacteria and hundreds of microorganisms every day. In fact, if it’s been awhile since you’ve brushed, your mouth may actually contain more bacteria than people currently living on the planet. Most of the time the fact your mouth contains so many different types of bacteria isn’t really a big deal. It only becomes a problem when the balance between the number of healthy and unhealthy bacteria in your mouth tips in the unhealthy direction.

The reason you brush your teeth to begin with has to do with the removal of bacteria from your mouth. Plaque, the sticky substance that you need to brush away in order to remove it from your teeth, is a bacteria, so every time you brush you’re placing bacteria on your toothbrush.

Can Your Brush Make You Sick?

So far we’ve established that your brush and mouth are full of bacteria, but can that bacteria actually make you sick? In all likelihood, the answer is no, it cannot. No matter how much bacteria lives in your mouth, or whether that bacteria arrived there by catching a ride on your toothbrush, your body’s natural defenses make it extremely unlikely that your going to catch any kind of infection simply by brushing your teeth.

The human body is incredibly resilient when it comes to fighting off bacteria, so the odds of a toothbrush, which spends all but five minutes a day sitting in a holder on a shelf in your bathroom, making you sick are extremely low. However, just because something isn’t probable doesn’t mean it’s not possible. So you should still practice some common sense when it comes to how and where you store a toothbrush.

Don’t Brush and Flush

Unless you live in a palatial mansion that contains a number of sitting rooms and an observatory where Col. Mustard likes to get busy with a candlestick, odds are your bathroom isn’t the largest room in your house. Odds are even better that the distance between your bathroom sink and toilet could probably be more accurately measured in inches instead of feet.

So consider that every time you flush, the toilet ejects a spray of bacteria that float out into the air. If you keep your toothbrush sitting on an elevated ledge located almost directly above your toilet…well you can probably image what could happen. Instead of keeping your toothbrush out in the open, try storing it in your medicine cabinet when not in use.

Storage Tips

Once you’ve moved your brush away from the toilet, here are a few other storage tips that can help to keep your brush germ free.

  • Keep it rinsed and always wash it after each use
  • Keep it dry, as bacteria love moisture, which provides ideal conditions for growth
  • Keep it upright so it has an easier time drying
  • Keep it to yourself and never share it with anyone else, no matter how close

Do all of the following and your toothbrush will be that last thing to get you sick. Now, what to do about that werewolf.

If you have questions about toothbrushes or any other oral health issues, please contact our Oregon City dental office today/

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