Sharma Mulqueen RDH
Is Your Toothbrush Making you Sick?
Everyone’s focusing on the hand washing when they’re sick, with good reason. But how about washing your toothbrush? Washing your hands can reduce the risk of illness since we put our hands in our mouths, our eyes, our ears. So why is there no focus on cleaning the toothbrush during illness when we stick it directly into our mouths? What can we do to prevent the germs from passing on?
Reintroducing that toothbrush back into your mouth could be the worst thing you could be doing for your health on a daily basis.
That doesn’t mean don’t brush.
Many studies clearly state that all of the presently available toothbrushes have the ability to be infected by a wide range of microorganisms, including viruses which can cause the common cold to even herpes. Pneumonia-causing bacteria also are found on a toothbrush.
What can you do?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a simple regimen for toothbrush care is sufficient to remove most microorganisms from your toothbrush and limit the spread of disease. Here are some common-sense steps you can take:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and after brushing or flossing.
- After brushing, rinse your toothbrush with warm water and store it upright to air-dry.
- Don’t cover your toothbrush or place it in a closed container until it is completely dry. A moist environment can foster bacterial growth.
- Use a completely dry toothbrush. Everyone should have two toothbrushes to give ample time (24 hours) for it to dry out in between uses.
- Don’t share a toothbrush with anyone. Also, don’t store toothbrushes in a way that might cause them to touch and spread germs.
- Replace your toothbrush every three or four months. Dentists recommend this practice not as prevention against contamination, but because toothbrushes wear out and become less effective at cleaning teeth.
- Always replace your toothbrush after a cold or other illness to prevent contamination.
- If you or someone else in your family is sick, that person should use a different tube of toothpaste (travel size, for example), to prevent spreading germs to other toothbrushes.
- The toothbrush should be viewed as a necessary evil as well as a bio hazard. Make sure it is clean before using it!
In summary, do not reuse your floss, keep your toothbrush clean, and replace during and after illness. Store it outside the bathroom and use it several times per day. Brush twice a day for two minutes and floss daily and see your dentist every six months for check ups!
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