The Truth Behind Your Toothbrush

Toothbrush is an essential tool in maintaining our oral health for it removes food remnants and plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that irritate the gums. If the plaque is not removed, it can harden into tartar, which can cause other underlying gum problems.

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However, a research shows that toothbrush is home to more than 100 million bacteria including E. coli and staphylococci bacteria. Another study reveals that fecal germs are also found on our toothbrushes. How these bacteria spread and how they affect our oral health?

  • Using electric toothbrush can hurt our oral health, especially our gums as it pushes germs under our gums. Despite the fact that these germs already exist in our mouth, we won’t probably get sick from these.
  • Using someone else’s toothbrush can spread germs. If your resistance is low, this can cause illnesses because in essence, you are re-infecting yourself.
  • Don’t flush the toilet when you are brushing your teeth. Doing this can spread the bacteria onto your brush. When flushing, bacteria are released into the air, causing it to spread. Thus, it is necessary to close the toilet lid before flushing to minimize bacteria from spreading out. After brushing, keep them in a medicine cabinet.
  • Toothbrush holders are also to blame. These holders can gather bacteria that are spread by toilet flushing. In a study, it was found that toothbrush holders are the third most germ-filled household items. Regular cleaning of toothbrush holder can help in removing the germs within.

To prevent these bacteria and make our toothbrushes germ-free, American Dental Association suggests ways to keep them clean and to maintain our mouth healthy.

  1. After brushing, rinse the toothbrush thoroughly using tap water to remove any remaining toothpaste and debris.
  2. Let the toothbrush air-dry thoroughly between brushing. Do not use toothbrush covers, which produce moisture, a breeding ground for bacteria.
  3. Keep the toothbrush upright in a holder, rather than lying down.
  4. Never use anyone else’s toothbrush or allow someone use yours.
  5. If more than one brush is stored in the same holder, keep toothbrushes separated to prevent cross-contamination. If toothbrushes touch, they spread germs.
  6. Do not cover toothbrush or store it in closed containers. These containers are more conducive to the growth of microorganism than open air.

Does toothbrush sanitizer work?

There are available products in the market that claim to sanitize our toothbrush. Some utilize ultraviolet light while others are in the form of sprays or rinses. There are other brushes with built-in antibacterial bristles. They may kill some germs but experts claim that there is no evidence that these sanitizing products will diminish risk of illness.

How often should you replace your toothbrush?

The American Dental Association recommends replacing your toothbrush every three to four months.  If the bristles become frayed, or if you get sick or if your immune system turns weak, toss it. Toothbrush wears out more rapidly depending on factors unique to each patient. Check your brushes often for this type of wear and replace them more frequently.  If you are using electric toothbrush, replace the head as frequently as you would a regular disposable brush.

Likewise, the association tells that soaking your toothbrush in an antibacterial mouth rinse after use may reduce the amount of bacteria on your brush.

However, it is not advised to sterilize your toothbrush in a microwave or dishwasher. The association explains that toothbrush is not made to withstand the condition. Doing it might damage the brush and reduce its effectiveness.

Practice oral health hygiene

Dentists suggest rinsing your mouth first with an antibacterial mouthwash before brushing to eliminate bacteria before they get onto our toothbrush. In addition, practicing good oral hygiene is essential to prevent bacteria in our mouth.  These bacteria cause gum problems, tooth decay as well as bad breath. Hence, proper brushing and flossing should be done on a daily basis to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

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