You might have heard the recommendation to replace your toothbrush every time you get sick. Is that actually correct? Well, it’s partly right. If you have a bacterial or fungal infection in or near your mouth, it’s vital. A bacterial infection, like strep throat, can live on your toothbrush long enough to reinfect you after your antibiotics are done. That’s not the case with a common cold, as your body develops its own antibodies that prevent you from being reinfected after you recover.
A fungal infection like thrush can also be stored on a toothbrush. If you experience this problem, change your toothbrush frequently while being treated and then break open a new one when your treatment is done.
In most other cases, your own immune system should be strong enough to prevent reinfection with any of the bacteria or viruses living on your toothbrush. Giving an illness to another person via toothbrush—that’s a different matter.
Reasons to Never Share a Toothbrush
Say you’re at a friend’s house and you forgot your toothbrush. Should you just use his—or hers? Never. Some bacteria and viruses can survive on a toothbrush long enough for another person to be infected. Both Hepatitis B and C can be transmitted via toothbrush and it’s also possible to transmit the Epstein-Barr virus (the one that causes mononucleosis) if saliva remains on the brush. It is worth running out to a store to pick one up for yourself. It’s also a good idea to keep a few spare brushes on hand for surprise visitors.
Toothbrushes can also transmit that fungal infection we mentioned earlier, the virus that causes cold sores and the kind of bacteria that cause gum infections. Hopefully, that’s enough to convince you to take your own toothbrush with you wherever you travel.
How to Keep Your Toothbrush Sanitary
Always rinse your toothbrush thoroughly after use and store it in a vertical position so it will dry. Make sure it’s stored in some kind of holder that prevents it from touching others. Storing a number of brushes in a mug on the sink won’t do it. There are racks that can be adhered to walls or tile and special holders that sit on the sink that will keep them separate.
It’s smart to have more than one toothbrush in use. That way, it can thoroughly dry before it’s used again which helps keep the growth of bacteria and funguses to a minimum. It’s also smart to keep your toothbrushes as far as possible from the toilet, since studies have found that bacteria is discharged into the air when it is flushed. This is seldom a source of infection but it just makes good health sense.
If you’re traveling, invest a few dollars in a case to keep your toothbrush clean. Just remember to let your toothbrush dry out thoroughly between uses rather than storing it in the case.
There’s one other way that infection can be shared and that is by contact with a tube of toothpaste. Each person could use his own tube, or get a sick person a small travel tube for the course of his illness. Separate tubes of toothpaste is also a good way to keep illness from traveling from one child to another, especially in group settings like school or daycare.
At StarBrite Dental , our goal is to help you improve your overall oral health and stay that way. If you are looking for a new dentist or you have just moved to the Rockville, Maryland area or metropolitan Washington, D.C., call StarBrite Dental, the office of Dr. Maryam Seifi , and let us use our expertise to keep your teeth and mouth in perfect health. Call (301) 770-1070 today to make an appointment.