There are two types of people in the world. The guy who carelessly puts his toothbrushes out in the open, in the same bathroom that houses a feces-spewing toilet (disgusting, isn’t it?), and the guy who takes care to cover his toothbrushes when not in use, and even periodically sanitize them in the dishwasher or with a sophisticated ultraviolet sterilizer. Of the two groups, guess who follows CDC and ADA guidelines for caring for your toothbrush? Surprise, it’s the sloths.
But aren’t their toothbrushes covered in bacteria and other nasty little germs? They certainly are. All toothbrushes are full of germs, and most of them come from our mouths. This review of studies on toothbrush contamination reports that all “found significant bacterial retention and survival on toothbrushes after use.”
Toothbrushes start with germs (after all, they come out of the factory clean, but not sterile) and quickly pick up any germs you have in your mouth. If you have disease-causing microbes in your mouth (gum disease, cold sores), they will be put on your toothbrush, and you won’t be able to remove them completely. And here’s a fun bonus fact: as toothbrushes age, their surfaces wear down and they’re able to house even After germs.
You won’t die from toothbrush germs
Before we go any further, let’s get one thing straight: while the thought of germs on your toothbrush might gross you out, it’s not really a health hazard for most people. The CDC reports that people with bleeding disorders or who are immunocompromised may need to find other ways to perform oral care, and if this is you, talk to your doctor. For the rest of us: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not aware of any adverse health effects directly related to toothbrush use.”
Let your toothbrush dry
The best way to fight all those germs? According to the CDC and the american dental associationair drying is key.
After brushing, rinse your toothbrush with tap water. This does not remove bacteria, but does remove toothpaste drips or other messes that may interfere with the drying process. Place your toothbrush in a holder that allows it to stand upright and air dry. The drying out of bacteria is what prevents them from multiplying. Keeping used toothbrushes in a container or putting a cap on them is likely to to encourage bacterial growth. The few germs you keep outside will outnumber the germs celebrating inside.
To learn more about proper toothbrush care:
- Do not share toothbrushes; keep your residual bodily fluids to yourself.
- For the same reason, don’t let your toothbrush come into contact with someone else’s toothbrush.
- Replace your toothbrush when it frays, or about every three to four months. Toothbrushes clean your teeth better (and harbor less bacteria) when they’re in good shape.
If the thought of bacteria disgusts you so much that you feel must do something about it, the ADA says you can dip your toothbrush in listerine or 3% hydrogen peroxide (what you get in the brown bottle at the drug store). It won’t kill all bacteria, but it can reduce levels by 85%. (Now 85% of a bajillion is still a bajillion, but maybe that makes you feel better.)
Do not put your toothbrush in the dishwasher or microwave; it might kill bacteria, but it will also damage your toothbrush. Experts seem to be divided on ultraviolet (UV) sterilizers. The CDC says they “may damage” toothbrushes; the ADA acknowledges that they exist but makes no recommendation for or against them.
So, is there poop on my toothbrush or not?
So what about those toilet plumes, anyway? It’s true that toilets can send droplets into the airsome of them evaporating into aerosols that can float around the room and eventually land on your toothbrush or other objects.
But no research directly links toilet-derived aerosols to toothbrushes making people sick. Instead, we have studies like this thesis who found traces of bacteria potentially of faecal origin on 60% of toothbrushes stored in shared bathrooms (the average bathroom was shared by nine people). But there was no control group in this study; it wasn’t a comparison of toothbrushes stored in bathrooms versus toothbrushes stored elsewhere, it was just a survey of toothbrushes. (He also found that the bacteria were After common on toothbrushes that have been rinsed in mouthwash, suggesting that mouthwash may not be the best way to relieve your germophobia.)
On the other hand, a microbiome project sequenced the microbes found on the toothbrushes of volunteers across the country and could find no conclusive evidence that the toothbrushes are colonized by fecal bacteria. (Previous studies, including the thesis, used methods that couldn’t tell for sure if the germs came from poop, just that they appeared to belong to the same types of families as common poo germs.) our shit on your toothbrush”, one of the authors told Gizmodo.
Whether or not there are poo sprouts on your toothbrush, we’ve already established that it’s better to let the sprouts dry out than to incubate them in a closed container. You can store your toothbrush in a different room, if you prefer, but watch out for sneaky sources of germs there. that room.