The disgusting truth about your toothbrush

The toothbrush is a simple concept that dates back to the “chew stick” (a thin twig with a frayed end) used by ancient civilizations more than 5000 years ago. Today, the toothbrush has radically transformed and is a staple of personal hygiene for modern civilizations. It helps us look better, smell better and makes our mouth healthier. But take a closer look at that magical mouth wand and you’ll see something gross and disgusting.

Woman cleaning toothbrush

Researchers at England’s University of Manchester found that one uncovered toothbrush can provide refuge for more than 100 million bacteria, including E. coli, which can cause diarrhea and staphylococci (“Staph”) bacteria that cause skin infections.

So how do you minimize your exposure to this plethora of bacteria?


Hide the brush where you flush

Most likely your toothbrush is settled somewhere on your bathroom countertop for convenience, but this convenience comes with a price. When you flush, the bacteria from your toilet is aerosolized and can travel up to six feet, landing on your countertop, floor and your toothbrush. Put the toothbrush in a medicine cabinet or drawer to keep it from accumulating the commode’s funk.

2Store it right

In addition to moving your toothbrush away from the toilet, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends rinsing the brush with clean tap water after each use and allowing it to air dry. Store it in an upright position whenever possible to avoid contamination with other surfaces.

3Keep it out of closed containers

Covering toothbrushes or storing them in closed containers in an effort to ward off bacteria actually has a negative side effect. The moist environment inside these closed containers becomes a breeding ground for microorganisms, some more dangerous than the bacteria you were protecting it from.

4Don’t share

While you may be close with your spouse, or don’t think twice when your son “accidentally” uses your daughter’s toothbrush, think about the amount of germs that are swapped! Keep your germy toothbrush to yourself and if more than one is stored in the same area, keep the brushes separate and not touching one another.

5Replace it regularly

The American Dental Association suggests replacing your toothbrush every three to four months. The bristles become frayed and worn and will be less effective at cleaning. If it makes it easier to remember, swap your brush with the season change. Children’s brushes may need to be replaced more frequently and always replace your brush after you’ve been sick.

6Keep your mouth clean

Your mouth is a bacteria playground to start with – every time you open your mouth you invite a fresh set in to play. While most bacteria in your mouth is harmless, minimize it by keeping plaque at bay, flossing and finishing your routine with a swish of oral rinse.

While the truth about your toothbrush may be disgusting, these tips can help curb the gross factor.

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