Could Your Toothbrush Make You Sick?
Tips to keep your toothbrush clean for a healthy mouth.
In this age of anti-bacterial everything, it may surprise and horrify you to learn that there are millions upon millions of bacteria living in the average toothbrush. In fact, according to researchers at the University of Manchester in England, there can be more than 100 million bacteria on one little toothbrush, including E. coli, staphylococci, and fecal bacteria.
So can toothbrush bacteria make you sick? Experts say it isn’t likely. After all, your mouth is already full of many different bacteria, including plaque bacteria. Getting these bacteria on your toothbrush won’t hurt you, and your immune system can typically take care of most other bacteria.
The main risks arise from getting someone else’s germs on your toothbrush, or from pushing your own germs beneath the gums by brushing too vigorously. If your resistance to infection is low, you could essentially be re-infecting yourself every time you brush.
However, just because the risk of getting sick from a dirty toothbrush is low doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care to keep your toothbrush clean and sanitary. This is just common sense, and will make for a more pleasant oral care experience. Here are the top tips to follow for a clean and healthy toothbrush:
Don’t Store Toothbrushes Near the Toilet: Every time a toilet is flushed, a fine mist of bacteria is released into the air. This could contain fecal bacteria that you definitely don’t want on your toothbrush. Store your toothbrush as far from the toilet as you can and always close the toilet lid when flushing.
Clean Your Toothbrush Holder: According to the National Sanitation Foundation, toothbrush holders are the third most germy household item in the average home. To keep your toothbrush from picking up germs, clean your holder regularly.
Keep Toothbrushes Dry: Many types of bacteria thrive in moist conditions, so using a toothbrush cover that locks in moisture can be a recipe for a dirty toothbrush. Always rinse your toothbrush after use, and then let it dry standing up before packing it away in a toothbrush cover or toiletry bag.
Don’t Put Your Toothbrush in the Microwave or Dishwasher: While putting your toothbrush in the microwave or dishwasher might seem like a great way to zap bacteria, toothbrush manufacturers warn that the high temperatures can actually damage the bristles. This will reduce the cleaning power of your toothbrush. If you want to sterilize your toothbrush, dip it in a cup of antibacterial mouthwash.
Replace Your Toothbrush Often: According to the American Dental Association, you should replace your toothbrush every 3 or 4 months, or sooner if it becomes overly worn or if you have been sick. This helps keep bacteria from accumulating excessively.