Toothbrush Use-Is it Making you Sick?

A toothbrush is the most commonly used means of maintaining good oral hygiene. However, instead of cleaning the teeth and mouth, badly tended brushes may contaminate the oral space further following retention and survival of germs on toothbrushes on regular use and poor storage.

The longer the toothbrush is used, the more the number of germs increases, and a re-contamination of the oral cavity with germs. Given the fact that very often people will traumatize themselves with their toothbrush, this trauma may become a potential portal of entry for organisms. Contaminated toothbrushes have been associated with repeated infections of mouth that come with inflammation and bleeding of gums and dental caries. There are also links between lingering oral thrush (yeast infection), cold, sore throats and the flu and contaminated toothbrushes.


Mouth herpes germs can remain viable on a dried toothbrush for at least 48 hours and, in moist conditions, for one day. Contaminated toothbrushes can be particularly hazardous to your health, especially those with suppressed immunity and those chronic dental diseases.


Toothbrushes are commonly contaminated by germs in the mouth, because the mouth holds hundreds of different types of germs, some of which are transferred to a toothbrush during use. Also, fluids and food debris can remain in the spaces between tufts, leading to bacterial growth.

Toothbrushes may also be contaminated right out of the box, because they are not required to be sold in a sterile package. Covering a toothbrush during storage has been found to prolong drying time, thus extending the growth of organism. Micro-organism in the environment may also become established on a stored toothbrush is a common place for teeth brushing, brushes that are placed in close proximity to the toilet or sink may become a breeding ground for germs.

Indeed the simple act of flushing the toilet releases millions of germs into the atmosphere. Aerosol droplets from both toilets and sinks may create a potential for cross-contamination of toothbrushes by germs that are commonly found in the guts, or from contaminated fingers and the skin.

Considering the evidence that suggests oral bacteria may play a role in heart attacks, diabetes and premature births, it is prudent to consider ways to reduce or prevent organisms from establishing and proliferating on toothbrushes.

Family toothbrushes need to be kept separately and away from the toilet or the bathroom in an effort to prevent cross-contamination, as many oral and environmental micro-organism establish themselves on brushes. The possibility of toothbrush cross-contamination in group and school setting is particularly high, perhaps because of lack of proper handling and storage.

After use, toothbrush needs to be thoroughly rinsed with tap water to remove any toothpaste and debris and stored in an upright, position if possible to allow it to air-dry. Supplemental methods of cleaning the toothbrushes, such as immersion and rinsing in an anti-germ agent, may be needed.

When storing more than one brush, it is important to keep them separated so that germs are not transferred from one brush to another. It is essential not to routinely cover or store toothbrushes in closed containers. A moist environment helps the growth of most germs.

Some cleaning methods, including the use of dishwasher or microwave oven, could damage the brush. And never, ever share toothbrushes.

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