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Is Your Toothbrush Making You Sick?


Posted on 10/20/2015 by Robert Leale
Four different colored toothbrushes inside of a glass jar.You may have heard that germs often live on your toothbrush, and like many people, you may be wondering if this is something that you should worry about. The mouth is home to more bacteria than any other part of your body, so it is quite common that some of them will get onto your toothbrush when you brush your teeth. While this is a standard occurrence, there are some situations in which your toothbrush could be used to spread germs and illnesses, and it could actually be making you sick.

What Could Be Lingering on Your Toothbrush

We use our toothbrushes every day to clean our teeth, and while we assume they are clean, a wealth of bacteria, viruses, and other germs could be hiding out there. In fact, researchers have determined that millions of bacteria live on a single toothbrush. While many of these bacteria are harmless, especially considering the fact that our mouths are full of bacteria on their own, others could compromise your oral health.

•  Streptococcus. The mouth is home to numerous different species of these bacteria, and they can attach the tooth enamel, ultimately leading to cavities and tooth decay. Certain varieties can also cause strep throat.
•  Herpes simplex virus. This virus is also known as oral herpes, and it is highly contagious. If you share a toothbrush with someone that has oral herpes, or cold sores, you can easily become infected yourself.
•  Influenza. The influenza virus can also call the toothbrush home, so if one member of your family has the flu and your toothbrushes are located near each other, the flu can spread like wildfire throughout the rest of your household.
•  Toilet bacteria. Most people store their toothbrush in the bathroom where it is located close to the toilet and all of its bacteria. Each time that you flush, bacteria will become airborne and could travel as much as five feet away, potentially onto your toothbrush.

How to Stay Healthy While Brushing

The CDC has outlined some simple tips regarding toothbrush care that can help you to stay healthy while minimizing the spread of disease. While many of these precautions may be common sense, they are worth reviewing:

•  Before and after you brush, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
•  Rinse your toothbrush out with warm water after brushing, and store it in an up-right container so that it can air-dry.
•  Never place a wet toothbrush in a closed container, as this will create a breeding ground for bacteria.
•  Any time you get a cold or experience another illness, be sure to replace your toothbrush to prevent reinfection.
•  Wait until your toothbrush is completely dry before brushing. You may need to have two toothbrushes so that each brush has ample time to dry between uses.
•  Replace your toothbrush regularly, preferably every three months. This is a good practice to prevent against the spread of disease and bacteria, but it is also better for your oral health, as a worn down toothbrush will be less effective.
•  Never share a toothbrush or store multiple toothbrushes in a way that they might touch and spread germs.

Sterilizing Your Toothbrush

Despite the fact that studies have found that a variety of microorganisms grow on toothbrushes after use, there is no evidence that soaking your toothbrush in an antibacterial mouth rinse will have any effect on your health. Likewise, using toothbrush sanitizer has also not been shown to benefit your oral health in any way. While these products won't harm you and do remove germs, they aren't entirely necessary to prevent the spread of germs, and easier methods can be used to limit the spread of bacteria from toothbrushes.

Please contact us if you have any questions bout your oral health!
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NorthView Family Dental

5901 N Lidgerwood St, Suite 225
Spokane, WA 99208

Phone: (509) 590-1763


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