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Walk The Plank, You Dirty Toothbrush!

May 13, 2013

Discarding toothbrush after illness
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It’s that time of year when allergies, springtime colds and flu have your family sick for weeks.  So should your old toothbrush walk the plank after you’ve recovered?  Healthcare professionals have often suggested throwing toothbrushes away after an illness, especially for children who were diagnosed with strep throat.  But a new study shows this may not be necessary.

At the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston (UTMB), tests were conducted where the bacteria causing strep throat was exposed to numerous toothbrushes.  Brushes exposed to only the group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacteria harbored it for at least 48 hours.  However, the control group toothbrushes that were not exposed to GAS also grew the bacteria.  Findings suggest that group A Streptococcus is present no matter the source.  

The next step included testing the brushes of people with varying health conditions: 14 children with strep throat, 13 with a sore throat due to other illness and 27 well people.  Each person brushed for one minute with brand new toothbrushes.  Tests concluded that only one of the 54 brushes grew the GAS bacterium and that was used by a patient who was not sick. 

Judith L. Rowen, MD who assisted in the UTMB study states, “This study supports that it is probably unnecessary to throw away your toothbrush after a diagnosis of strep throat.”  While UTMB admits this particular study had a very small test group, it does show a positive step in discovery and that larger tests should be conducted. 

WebMD claims that there would never be enough microorganisms on your toothbrush to actually make a person ill.  Your body’s natural defenses make it difficult to catch an infection in this manner.

Our partner here at Dental Insurance Store, Delta Dental, shares several tips on keeping a clean toothbrush.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and after brushing or flossing.
  • After brushing, rinse your toothbrush with warm water and store it upright to air-dry.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three or four months. Dentists recommend this practice not as prevention against contamination, but because toothbrushes wear out and become less effective at cleaning teeth.

And, if you are into science Myth Busters style, watch their experiment for an extra fun tidbit of information about bacteria and your toothbrush! 


Copyright 2013, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC©

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