Do you know what’s lurking on your toothbrush?
Your toothbrush is loaded with germs, say researchers at England’s University of Manchester. They’ve found that one uncovered toothbrush can harbor more than 100 million bacteria, including E. coli bacteria, which can cause diarrhea, and staphylococci (“staph”) bacteria that cause skin infections.
But don’t panic. Your mouth wasn’t exactly sterile to begin with.
Mouthful of Bacteria
“The bottom line is, there [are] hundreds of microorganisms in our mouths every day,” says Gayle McCombs, RDH, MS, associate professor and director of the Dental Hygiene Research Center at Old Dominion University.
That’s no big deal. Problems only start when there is an unhealthy balance of bacteria in the mouth. McCombs says.
“It’s important to remember that plaque — the stuff you’re removing from your teeth — is bacteria,” says dentist Kimberly Harms, DDS, consumer advisor for the American Dental Association. “So you’re putting bacteria on your toothbrush every time you brush your teeth.”
Could Your Toothbrush Be Making You Sick?
Probably not. Regardless of how many bacteria live in your mouth, or have gotten in there via your toothbrush, your body’s natural defenses make it highly unlikely that you’re going to catch an infection simply from brushing your teeth.
“Fortunately, the human body is usually able to defend itself from bacteria,” Harms says. “So we aren’t aware of any real evidence that sitting the toothbrush in your bathroom in the toothbrush holder is causing any real damage or harm. We don’t know that the bacteria on there are translating into infections.”
Still, you should exercise some common sense about storing your toothbrush, including how close it is to the toilet.
Don’t Brush Where You Flush
Most bathrooms are small. And in many homes, the toilet is pretty close to the bathroom sink where you keep your toothbrush.
Every toilet flush sends a spray of bacteria into the air. And you don’t want the toilet spray anywhere near your open toothbrush.
“You don’t store your plates and glasses by the toilet, so why would you want to place your toothbrush there?” McCombs says. “It’s just common sense to store your toothbrush as far away from the toilet as possible.”
You also wouldn’t eat after going to the bathroom without first washing your hands. The same advice applies before brushing your teeth, McCombs says.
Toothbrush Storage Tips
Once you’ve moved your toothbrush away from the toilet, here are a few other storage tips to keep your brush as germ-free as possible:
- Keep it rinsed. Wash off your toothbrush thoroughly with tap water every time you use it.
- Keep it dry. “Bacteria love a moist environment,” Harms says. Make sure your brush has a chance to dry thoroughly between brushings. Avoid using toothbrush covers, which can create a moist enclosed breeding ground for bacteria.
- Keep it upright. Store your toothbrush upright in a holder, rather than lying it down.
- Keep it to yourself. No matter how close you are to your sister, brother, spouse, or roommate, don’t ever use their toothbrush. Don’t even store your toothbrush side-by-side in the same cup with other people’s brushes. Whenever toothbrushes touch, they can swap germs.
Do Toothbrush Sanitizers Really Work?
Various products pledge to sanitize your toothbrush. Some say they kill bacteria with heat or ultraviolet light, germ-killing sprays, or rinses. Others have built-in antibacterial bristles.
There’s evidence that at least some of these products do effectively kill germs. But there’s no real proof that using any toothbrush sanitizer will reduce your risk of getting sick.
If you choose to use one of these products, make sure that it has been reviewed by the FDA, which checks the validity of consumer health product marketing claims.
Remember that even the best products won’t kill all the germs on your toothbrush. At best, they’ll kill 99.9% of the germs.
That means if you have one million bacteria on your toothbrush to start, you’ll still have about 1,000 remaining when you’re finished sanitizing, Harms says.
Some web sites recommend putting your toothbrush into the microwave oven or dishwasher to sanitize it. Although these methods will kill some of the bacteria, they will probably damage your toothbrush in the process. It’s better to just buy disposable brushes and throw them out.
When to Toss Your Toothbrush
The best way to limit the bacteria on your toothbrush is to replace it on a regular basis.
The American Dental Association recommends throwing out your toothbrush every three to four months. If the bristles become frayed, you’re sick, or you have a weak immune system, throw it out even more often. If you use an electric toothbrush, throw out the head as often as you’d discard a disposable toothbrush.
Every time you’re tempted to skip brushing and flossing your teeth, remember how many bacteria lurk in your mouth – and what they can do.
“It’s bacteria that cause gum disease, and decay, and bad breath,” Harms says. “Make sure you’re brushing and flossing as often as possible to eliminate some of those bacteria.” Rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash before or after brushing can also help reduce plaque-causing bacteria that can lead to gingivitis, an early, mild form of gum disease.
The post The Ugly Truth About Your Toothbrush appeared first on Dentist in Indianapolis Indiana | Smith Brauer Dentistry.
Tea and Your Teeth
Although tea has a reputation as a healthy beverage, it may not be the best choice when it comes to keeping your teeth white. Dentists say tea — especially the basic black variety — can cause more stains than coffee. However, recent studies have found that even herbal teas and white teas have the potential to erode enamel and cause tooth staining.
Sauces May Stain Teeth
They may be delicious, but deeply-colored sauces — like soy sauce, tomato sauce, and curry sauce — are also believed to have significant tooth-staining potential. Consider lighter cream sauces for less damaging options and rinse or brush soon after eating to reduce the potential for teeth stains.
Sports Drinks and Staining
Acidic foods and drinks can also lead to tooth discoloration. Recent research finds that highly acidic drinks — like sports or energy drinks — can erode tooth enamel, setting the stage for staining. When exercising, limit the intake of these drinks. Water may be a better choice — at least for your teeth.
Wine and White Teeth
If a food or drink can stain a tablecloth, it has the potential to stain your teeth. Red wine, an acidic drink with intensely pigmented molecules called tannins and chromogens, is notorious for tooth discoloration. White wine is even more acidic and can lead to stains, too
Intensely pigmented molecules stick to dental enamel. That’s why blueberries, blackberries, cherries, pomegranates, and other vibrantly colored fruits can stain teeth. Juices and pies made from those fruits can also cause stains. Fruits with less pigmentation — like white grapes and white cranberries — are less likely to stain teeth. But these acidic substances can still harm enamel, so be sure to brush and floss.
Soda, Cola and Other Carbonated Drinks
The acid and chromogens in these drinks can lead to serious staining of your teeth. Even light-colored sodas contain enough acid that they can encourage staining by other foods and drinks. The acidity in some carbonated drinks is so intense that it actually compares to the acidity in battery acid. Many of these beverages contain flavored additives that add to their erosive effects.
Candy, Sweets, and White Teeth
If your favorite sweet — like hard candy, chewing gum, or popsicles — makes your tongue change colors, it may contain teeth-staining coloring agents. Fortunately, unless you eat those goodies often they probably won’t do much to stain your teeth
Minimize Staining: Cut Back
You may not want to cut all teeth-staining food and drinks out of your diet. Many of those foods and beverages — like blueberries, blackberries, and tomato sauce — are rich in antioxidants. You want these beneficial nutrients in your diet. So keep eating them — but in moderation — or substitute other antioxidant sources such as cauliflower, apples, grapefruit, and melon.
Use a Straw to Fight Stains
Try using a straw to sip your favorite drinks — like sodas, juices, and iced tea. This should keep teeth-staining drinks away from your front teeth and reduce your risk of unsightly stains.
Rinse — then Brush — After Eating
Swish your mouth with water right after eating a stain-causing food or drink. For about 30 minutes after you consume something acidic, the enamel on your teeth is especially at risk of abrasion from tooth brushing. So rinse, then brush well after every meal. If you can’t get to your toothbrush, chew a piece of sugarless gum as soon as you’ve eaten.
The post Foods That Stain Your Teeth appeared first on Dentist in Indianapolis Indiana | Smith Brauer Dentistry.