We’re supposed to use our toothbrushes at least twice daily to keep our teeth and gums clean and healthy. But – surprise! – our brushes might not be as clean as we think. Given enough time, a lot of nasty things can be found lurking between the bristles. Scientists estimate that there are on average 1.2 million microscopic organisms (!) on every toothbrush.
Here is a quick snapshot of what can be found on the average toothbrush:
- Flu virus: The influenza virus is an extremely nasty bug that can call your toothbrush home. We’ve all experienced it before: chills, cough and/or sore throat, congestion, body aches, and fever are just some of the symptoms of the flu. Keeping each person’s toothbrush separate from one another is one way to minimize the spread of the flu in your home. We advise using a new toothbrush after recovering from any sort of infection or illness as well.
- Fecal matter: Whenever you flush your toilet, very tiny particles of fecal matter are released into the air. Keep your toothbrush far from the toilet and be sure to keep the lid down when you flush, because no one wants that stuff on their toothbrush!
- Oral herpes virus: Also known as herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), this virus causes those unsightly cold sores around your mouth, on your lips, and sometimes on your gums. The virus has been found on both the bristles and handles of toothbrushes. If you’ve experienced an outbreak, definitely swap your brush for a new one.
- Candida: This is a fungus that can cause a condition in the mouth called thrush, characterized by white, creamy lesions on the tongue and inner cheeks. Babies, young children, and older adults are particularly susceptible as their immune systems may either be undeveloped or compromised. Thrush occurs when the normal fungi in our bodies become too prevalent, and the immune system isn’t able to keep things in check. If you’ve experienced thrush before, it’s best to change your toothbrush even more frequently than every 3 months.
- E. coli: Along with fecal matter (item 2), bacteria like Escherichia coli can also land on your brush every time you flush. E. coli is associated with gastrointestinal disease, and can result in diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
- Staphylococcus aureus: This is another bacteria that inhabits normal, healthy people, but usually in the respiratory tract and on our skin. It can cause minor skin irritations (like pimples or boils), but also more serious diseases like pneumonia.
- Cosmetic aerosols: There are lots of toxic chemicals in almost all cosmetics, perfume, hair styling products, etc. To prevent all this from getting onto your toothbrush, store these products off your bathroom counter, underneath the sink or in a medicine cabinet.
To keep such uninvited guests away as much as possible, make sure you store your toothbrushes properly, and clean and rinse them thoroughly after each use. It is best when your toothbrush is kept on the bathroom counter and uncovered, so it can dry naturally. Remember to replace your toothbrush at least every three months, keep toothbrushes separate, never share them, and get regular dental cleanings.