It’s Cold & Flu Season Again, Viruses May Be Lurking in Your Toothbrush

Dr. Allen Sun of Laurentian Dental Centre Kitchener

Dr. Allen Sun, Laurentian Dental, Kitchener

Your toothbrush could be home to millions of nasty bacteria, lurking deep down in between it’s bristles, but how many of us know how to keep it clean?

Researchers have found millions of bacteria, fungi, germs & viruses that can compromise oral health on used toothbrushes. Bacteria thrive in moist environments, and the bacteria living on your toothbrush can cause infections. You may not view your toothbrush as a germ carrier, but depending on how humid your bathroom is, germs & viruses that can prolong colds, sore throats, flu and oral infections, can flourish on the brush; surviving for days in an infective state unless proper care is exercised.

Youngster with his mouth wide open during checkup at the dentist's

Rinse thoroughly with hot water.

During the normal lifecycle of your toothbrush, rinsing it thoroughly in hot water after every use, then submerging it in an antimicrobial mouthwash, or a mixture of 3% hydrogen-peroxide and 97% water after each use can help to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria, however that may not eliminate the buildup of microorganisms on the brush, so you should replace the brush (or brush-head) regularly.

It’s important to let your toothbrush dry out between brushings. Consider using one brush in the morning and a different one at night to ensure that they are always dry between uses.

Brushes should be stored upright (bristles up, handles down) after use to facilitate drying. Remember to also clean and disinfect the toothbrush holder on a regular basis. Although toothbrush sanitizers have become popular, to date there is no conclusive evidence that they are more effective at fighting germs on your toothbrush.

Each family member should have their own colour-coded toothbrush, stored at least an inch apart in a holder to avoid cross contamination. Never share toothbrushes because sharing a toothbrush could result in an exchange of body fluids and/or microorganisms creating an increased risk for infections.

“Change your toothbrush at the first sign of a cold and then change it again as soon as you regain your health.”

To avoid catching the same cold over and over again, change your toothbrush at the first sign of a cold and then change it again as soon as you regain your health because when you’re ill, it’s likely that your toothbrush will show signs of the infecting organism. Germs left on the toothbrush can cause recurring colds and sore throats.

When you load up on cough medicine, cold remedies or sinus pills, it’s a good idea to pick-up an inexpensive economy pack of toothbrushes that can be changed frequently when someone is sick. Then, when they are well again, they can return to using any “state- of-the-art” electronic toothbrush that they have been using.

It’s also a good idea to use a different tube of toothpaste if you or someone else in the household is sick. To help prevent the spread of illnesses; remember to disinfect and thoroughly clean the sinks, counter tops, toothbrush holders, bathtub or shower enclosures, and the toilet on a regular weekly basis.

Finally, if the bristles on your toothbrush look frayed, it’s time to toss the brush. When selecting a new toothbrush, opt for soft bristles as opposed to the hard ones that can damage gums and teeth.

Yours for better dental health,

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