Some experts worry that a dirty toothbrush may pose long-term threats to a person's health. Indeed, it has been shown that a toothbrush can harbor hundreds of millions of bacteria and microorganisms – the same ones that cause cold sores, Hepatitis B and C, tooth decay, and periodontal infections. These microorganisms may be transferred to your toothbrush from your mouth or after touching another person's toothbrush. Or, bacteria and microorganisms that are present in the air may attach to your toothbrush. While researchers have confirmed that the toothbrush can play host to bacteria and microorganisms, many of our Philadelphia cosmetic dentistry patients want to know if a dirty toothbrush can actually cause health problems.
The Scientific Evidence
There have been a number of studies attempting to find a link between the microorganisms found on toothbrushes and oral and systemic infections. According to the American Dental Association, there is not enough clinical evidence showing that specific health problems are the result of bacterial growth on toothbrushes.
However, there is some evidence that bacterial growth and microorganisms on toothbrushes could have an affect on a person's health:
- One study concluded that porphy-romonas gingivalis (a bacterium that causes gum disease) was found in fatal blood clots.
- A Columbia University Medical Centre study of patients with heart disease found that the bacteria present in the participants' cavities was also found in their arteries.
- Other research has linked gum disease to a higher incidence of heart disease, diabetes, blood infection, and babies with low birth weights.
- According to the National Institute of Health, patients with Hepatitis B and C should not share their toothbrushes with others.
Further research is needed to study the possible dangers of transferring bacteria and other microorganisms from your toothbrush through saliva or the blood stream (via cuts in the gums or the mouth).
ADA Recommendations on Proper Toothbrush Care
Although the ADA does not cite any specific health problems that may be caused by a dirty toothbrush, they do advise that patients take a common sense approach to toothbrush care. For example, if a person suffers from a systemic disease that can be transmitted through the blood or saliva, patients should exercise more caution as far as their toothbrushes are concerned.
The ADA provides the following recommendations to patients:
- Don't share your toothbrush: Sharinga toothbrush increases the risk of infection through an exchange of microorganisms or bodily fluids.
- Rinse after use: Thoroughly rinse your toothbrush to remove excess toothpaste and food particles.
- Store upright: Store your toothbrush in an upright position so the head of the toothbrush does not touch anything.
- Air dry: Allow your toothbrush to air dry completely between uses.
- Avoid cross contamination: Do not allow your toothbrush to touch other toothbrushes or the counter.
- Storage: Ideally, you want an open, dry environment for your toothbrush; closed containers are not ideal unless they are well ventilated.
- Replacement: Replace your toothbrush every three months.
Philadelphia dental implant surgeon Bruce Wilderman offers high quality dental care to patients that want to restore the health and beauty of their smiles. Contact our practice today to learn more about the services that we offer.