IT presents a romantic image: The bathroom the morning after. Partners, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep and invigorated with memories of last night's hot, passionate lovemaking. Laughing, flirting, hurrying, scurrying to get to work. Oops, only one toothbrush. No problem, they share, then celebrate with a deep, wet kiss. And why not, they've shared a whole lot else.
Romantic, yes. Hygienic, no. One of the no-nos of toothbrush care is no sharing. Advice to heed always, but especially now with National Toothbrush Day (26 June) so recently observed.
“This seems like a no-brainer, but a large proportion of spouses admit to sharing toothbrushes,” says Maria L. Geisinger, assistant professor of periodontology in the School of Dentistry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). “That means bacteria on those toothbrushes are being shared, including the ones that cause dental decay and periodontal disease — the two major dental diseases in adults.”
Toothbrushes can harbor freeloaders with names like coliform, pseudomonad, staphylococci, yeast. Not to mention intestinal bacteria and fecal germs.
Proper toothbrush storage and care are important to achieving personal oral hygiene and optimally effective plaque removal, MG says. In her amen corner are Tin Chun Wong, president of the Geneva-based FDI World Dental Federation and Aaron D. Johnson of The Smile Center in Bismarck, ND. (See AJ's video on taking care of toothbrushes above.)
“Over 90 percent of the world’s population will suffer some form of dental disease in their lifetime but many of these can easily be treated or prevented with a good oral care routine,” the dental body's TCW said ahead of World Oral Health Day (WOHD).
Celebrated on 20 March of each year, WOHD is the occasion that FDI members (schools, associations, groups, etc.) organize events – around a single theme – that focus on the important role that oral health plays in overall health. The theme for 2014 was “Celebrating Healthy Smiles.”
MG of the UAB dentistry school is bullish on healthy smiles and fielded questions from the UAB News to help anyone with teeth achieve those ends.
Toothbrushes should be kept upright. Photo courtesy of UAB News.
Q. Can bacteria from your toilet really reach your toothbrush?
A. The short answer is yes. Enteric bacteria, which mostly occur in the intestines, can transfer to toothbrushes and thus into your mouth.This may occur through inadequate hand-washing or due to microscopic droplets released from the toilet during flushing. The topic of dirty toothbrushes was a recent subject of the popular Discovery Channel show “Mythbusters,” when 24 toothbrushes were tested, and all of them demonstrated enteric microorganisms – even those that had not been inside of a bathroom. In fact, toothbrushes may be contaminated with bacteria right out of the box, as they are not required to be packaged in a sterile manner.”
Q. What is the proper way to clean your toothbrush to help remove germs?
A. You should thoroughly rinse toothbrushes with potable tap water after brushing to remove any remaining toothpaste and debris. Additionally, soaking toothbrushes in an antibacterial mouth rinse has been shown to decrease the level of bacteria that grow on toothbrushes.”
Q. How should toothbrushes be stored to avoid germ and bacteria buildup?
A. The American Dental Association recommends that you not store your toothbrush in a closed container or routinely cover your toothbrush, as a damp environment is more conducive to the growth of microorganisms. Also storing toothbrushes in an upright position and allowing them to air dry until the next use is recommended, if possible. If more than one brush is stored in an area, keeping the toothbrushes separate can aid in preventing cross-contamination.”
Q. What is the proper toothbrush protocol when you are sick?
A. Any illness that can be transmitted through body fluids should warrant separation of the toothbrush of the infected individual and, if economically feasible, replacement of the toothbrush after the illness.”
Logo for 2014 World Oral Health Day. Image from FDI World Dental Federation Web site.
Q. How often should your toothbrush be replaced?
A. Toothbrushes should be replaced at least every three to four months or when bristles become frayed and worn, whichever comes first.
In addition to not sharing a toothbrush, MG makes three other recommendations for better oral health and avoiding or limiting bacteria toothbrush buildup.
* Use antimicrobial mouth rinse before brushing. This can decrease the bacterial load in your mouth considerably and may reduce the number of micro-organisms that end up on the toothbrush after brushing.
* Routine dental care. Routine dental care, including regular dental cleanings, can reduce the overall bacterial load and types of bacteria in your mouth. This can also reduce bacteria on your toothbrush. Good dental care is essential if one has gum disease because the oral bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream during everyday activities, including eating, chewing gum and brushing teeth.
Synergy Organics offers two antimicrobial rinses, Sexy Mouth and Fresh Kiss. Image from Synergy Organics Web site.
Finally, how many times did so many hear it when they were growing up. Even now, adults have to be reminded of this. And workers – especially those in the food industry:
* Wash your hands. Hand-washing after using the restroom and before using a toothbrush can reduce the likelihood of fecal-oral contamination.
Visit http://www.fdiworldental.org to learn more about FDI World Dental Federation and World Oral Health Day.
Visit http://www.thesmilecenter.com/ to learn more about The Smile Center.
Visit http://www.ecoideas.ca/synergy-organicsall-natural-antibacterial-mouthwash.html to learn more about Synergy Organics (and Ecoideas).