NAPLES, Fla. – The weather has begun to change as winter sets in. For those of us in sunny Naples and other parts of Florida, that change may not be much, but it can be enough to bring on the first colds of the season. If you have a cold that seems to linger on for no reason, the answer could be found in your medicine cabinet.
Your toothbrush could be harboring germs that make you unable to shake that cough. In fact, researchers from the University of Manchester found that one toothbrush can contain up to 100 million bacteria! But Dr. Tamara Robison, a dentist in Naples and Marco Island, says that’s no reason to rush to buy new toothbrushes for the whole family.
“It’s just a fact that our mouths contain bacteria,” says Dr. Robison, who specializes in pediatric dentistry. “The foods and drinks we eat introduce bacteria to our mouths. When we brush our teeth, we’re removing plaque, which is a bacteria. But typically our bodies’ natural defenses work to keep us from getting sick from these bacteria.”
But improperly storing your toothbrush can lead to added germs that we don’t want or need. For example, never store your toothbrush close to the toilet. Every time a toilet is flushed, germs and bacteria are splashed into the air. So that means if your toothbrush is in the splash zone, those germs can land on it. Dr. Robison, a dentist for kids with more than 20 years of experience, recommends keeping your toothbrush as far away from the toilet as possible, especially in small bathrooms.
“It’s also important to let your toothbrush fully dry in between uses,” says Dr. Robison. “Bacteria thrives in wet places. This is also why you should never cover your toothbrush – wet, dark places are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria.”
Rinse your toothbrush before and after each use. Always store it upright and never lying down as this will help it dry. It’s also important to remember never to share toothbrushes with anyone, even members of your family. Everyone has different germs, so even siblings or spouses shouldn’t share toothbrushes to keep those germs from getting swapped.
It’s also important to remember to wash your hands with soap and water before brushing. If you brush with dirty hands, the germs on your hands can find their way to your toothbrush and mouth. This is especially important when flossing.
Replace your toothbrush every three months. This is important not just due to the buildup of bacteria, but because over time, toothbrushes wear out. And always remember to replace your toothbrush after recovering from an illness of any kind. While the chances of getting sick initially from your toothbrush are very small, continuing to use the same toothbrush you used during a cold can keep transferring those germs back to you, leaving you wondering why you can’t shake that cough.
For the germaphobes who find the mere thought of germs infesting their toothbrushes too much to handle, there are ways to sanitize your toothbrush. There are over the counter sprays and rinses, as well as products that use heat or UV lights to remove germs. There are even brushes with antibacterial bristles. Before purchasing these products, however, always be sure they are approved by the FDA.
© 2013 Sinai Marketing and Dr. Tamara Robison. Authorization to post is granted, with the stipulation that Sinai Marketing and Dr. Tamara Robison are credited as sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links.