Monday, March 17, 2014

Watch Out: Toothbrush can harm!

An advertiser of toothbrush covers once complained about the way people store their toothbrushes after each use. He noted that while people would store their soaps in dry soap cases so that they don’t get soggy, the same thing couldn’t be said about the treatment we give our toothbrushes.
His major grouse is that after each use, we simply toss our toothbrushes into a container usually hung in the bathrooms or near the bathroom entrance. The ostensible reason for this is that we want to make them accessible once we are prepared to take our bath, which is almost always accompanied with tooth brushing.

Germ-ridden toothbrush
Yet, dentists are of the opinion that what we expose our toothbrushes to can make or mar our overall health. Take, for instance, the unintended “bath” that toothbrushes hung in the bathroom are exposed to on a regular basis. The University of Arizona environmental microbiologist, Charles Gerba, says germs in faeces can be propelled into the air when you flush the toilet. As such, hanging your toothbrush container in the restroom provides viable landing pads for the flying germs. And whenever you use your toothbrush after each flushing, you already have a faint idea of what you are transferring to your mouth. Eeew!
“The greatest aerosol dispersal occurs not during the initial moments of the flush, but rather once most of the water has already left the bowl,” says the Director of Clinical Microbiology and Diagnostic Immunology at New York University Medical Centre, Dr. Philip Tierno.

Relocate your toothbrush
Gerba the environmental microbiologist warns that the aerosols travel as far as six to eight feet away from the toilet! He advises that it is not healthy to leave toothbrushes exposed in the bathroom; rather, he says, toothbrushes should be covered and protected; while toilet lids should be closed before flushing.
With this information on your finger tips, you may want to relocate your toothbrush to safer parts of the home.
Indeed, Associate Professor and Director of the Dental Hygiene Research Centre at Old Dominion University, Gayle McCombs, counsels, “You don’t store your plates and glasses by the toilet, so why would you want to place your toothbrush there? It’s just common sense to store your toothbrush as far away from the toilet as possible.”

Reduce risk of contamination
Researchers warn that generally, toothbrushes are never free of germs. This, they say, is because the mouth houses millions of germs, and whenever we brush, the toothbrush gets coated with plaque and other materials that stick to teeth (such as food particles).

Again, toothbrush can be contaminated with oral bacteria, blood, and saliva, physicians warn. Researchers at the University of Manchester, England, in a study found that one uncovered toothbrush can harbour as many as 100 million bacteria, including E. coli that has been implicated in causing diarrhoea; and staphylococci bacteria that cause skin infections. In general, bacteria cause gum disease, tooth decay and bad breath, dentists say.
That is why a dentist, Dr. Toyin Elemide, advises that in order to reduce the risk of contamination, you should rinse your toothbrush thoroughly every time you brush your teeth.
Replace toothbrush regularly
By the way, how long you use a toothbrush also matters, as experts advise that we change our toothbrushes every three months. According to experts at the British Dental Health Foundation, toothbrush could be the cause of repeated mouth infections. They are of the view that bacteria not only thrive on the bristles of old toothbrushes, they also pose the risk of transmitting organisms responsible for diseases throughout the body!
Physicians also advise that when you are recovering from an illness, change your toothbrush, as it may have been infected by bacteria that caused your illness in the first place.

Those whose immune system has also been suppressed as a result of diseases such as HIV or AIDS are especially counseled to change their toothbrushes earlier than the recommended three- month interval. This will limit the number of the bacteria on your toothbrush and also save you the trauma of oral infection.
The Chief Executive of the BDHF, Dr. Nigel Carter, counsels, “By replacing a toothbrush more often, we can prevent a lot of unnecessary illness and disease. The strongest argument to change your toothbrush regularly is to prevent re-infection following the flu or a cold. A dirty toothbrush can also be responsible for many ear, nose and throat infections.” Scary!

Don’t share toothbrush
And, would you know that sharing your toothbrush with anybody — including your spouse, children or siblings — exposes you to huge risk of infection? Elemide says it could make you susceptible to myriads of mouth and other health problems.
Remember also, it is not only advisable to hang your toothbrush holder in safe place, in addition, take time to clean the holder once in a while, as they also could harbour germs.

Caring for your toothbrush
•Do not share toothbrushes. The exchange of body fluids that such sharing would foster places toothbrush sharers at an increased risk for infections, a particularly important consideration for persons with compromised immune systems or infectious diseases.
• After brushing, rinse your toothbrush thoroughly with tap water to ensure the removal of toothpaste and debris, allow it to air-dry, and store it in an upright position. If multiple brushes are stored in the same holder, do not allow them to contact each other.
• It is not necessary to soak toothbrushes in disinfecting solutions or mouthwash. This practice actually may lead to cross-contamination of toothbrushes if the same disinfectant solution is used over a period of time or by multiple users.
• It is also unnecessary to use dishwashers, microwaves, or ultraviolet devices to disinfect toothbrushes. These measures may damage the toothbrush.
• Do not routinely cover toothbrushes or store them in closed containers. Such conditions (a humid environment) are more conducive to bacterial growth than the open air.

• Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months or sooner if the bristles appear worn or splayed. Children’s toothbrushes often need replacing more frequently than adult brushes. This recommendation of the American Dental Association is based on the expected wear of the toothbrush and its subsequent loss of mechanical effectiveness, not on its bacterial contamination.
Source: Centres for Disease Control

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