Since we use our brushes to clean our teeth every day, many of us assume they are sanitary – but you have no idea about the icky things that might be on your toothbrush. Since these instruments are usually stored in the bathroom and are moist almost all the time, they make a great home for microorganisms and other gross stuff you’d never want to think about. Here are just 7 of the nastiest things that might be on your toothbrush.
1. FECAL MATTER
If you have problems with your gag reflex, you might want to skip this first entry. Definitely one of the grossest things that might be on your toothbrush is fecal matter. Whenever you flush your toilet, very tiny tainted water droplets are released into the air. Some of these have huge chances of landing on your toothbrush if you keep it in your bathroom, like most people do. And the horror is not over. Don’t think that just closing the lid when you flush will do. An experiment led by the Mythbusters revealed that (unwrapped) toothbrushes that have never been near a bathroom still have fecal matter on them!
2. INFLUENZA VIRUS
Wikipedia description: The Orthomyxoviruses (orthos, Greek for “straight”; myxa, Greek for “mucus”) are a family of RNA viruses that includes six genera: Influenzavirus A, Influenzavirus B, Influenzavirus C, Isavirus, Thogotovirus and Quaranjavirus. The first three genera contain viruses that cause influenza in vertebrates, including birds (see also avian influenza), humans, and other mammals. Isaviruses infect salmon; thogotoviruses infect vertebrates and invertebrates, such as mosquitoes and sea lice.
The influenza virus can also build a nice home in your toothbrush. If you want to prevent the spread of flu viruses in your home, keep the family members’ toothbrushes isolated. Buy a brush holder that has individual slots to keep the brush heads away from each other and, of course, never share a toothbrush!
3. ORAL HERPES
Herpes Simplex, as any other virus, is not technically alive. It needs your cells to be able to replicate. However, if you have an active herpes outbreak, the virus can stay comfortably on your toothbrush even up to a week. While research still needs to be done on the viability of viruses on toothbrushes, transferring herpes to another person by sharing a brush is a possibility, since the virus can “travel” through saliva.
4. E. COLI
Wikipedia description: Bacillus coli communis Escherich 1885
Another one of the nasty things that could be on your toothbrush is closely related to what we’ve discussed in the first entry. Along with fecal matter, bacteria called Escherichia Coli can also land on your brush and call it home. And cleaning your teeth with E. Coli can make you sick to your stomach – literally, as the bacteria is associated with gastrointestinal diseases, such as infectious diarrhea.
You probably know by now that we all normally have Candida in our bodies – but in small amounts. It is when our immune system is weak or the mucosal barriers are disrupted that it can invade and lead to disease. The Candida species that is most common in our mouths is Albicans, which can cause oral thrush. Around 15 percent of the people who have oral thrush also have candida reservoirs on their brushes, which can infect others stored in the same area.
The majority of adults in the US develop gingivitis at some point in their lives, and almost half the people over 30 years old suffer from destructive gum disease. You may have ulcerations or tiny breaks in the tissue that you can’t even see, and these will allow blood particles to get on your brush, as well as bacteria to enter your bloodstream. So go see your dentist often to make sure you have healthy gums!
7. COSMETIC AEROSOLS
Cosmetic aerosols may not be the ickiest things that might be on your toothbrush, but they’re not a pleasant thought either. And we, ladies, should take more than half of the blame for them. Cosmetic aerosols can include mousse, perfume, dry shampoo, foundation, powder makeup, and so on. To prevent all this stuff from getting on your brush when you make yourself pretty every morning, better store it underneath the sink or in a medicinal cabinet.
These were just a few of the many things that may be on your toothbrush. To keep such uninvited guests away as much as possible, make sure you change your brush often, store it properly, and clean it thoroughly before and after use. How often do you change your toothbrush and what maintenance techniques do you use?