Last week, we introduced you to those invisible bacterial hitchhikers that tag along for a ride on your toothbrush every day. From the potentially dangerous S. aureus and E. coli to Candida and three strains of Streptococcus, these pathogenic bugs thrive in the moist environment a toothbrush offers.
Because we believe education is foundational to what a holistic office can offer, this week, we bring you 7 holistic ways to minimize your exposure to the potentially infectious bacteria on your toothbrush – without relying on antibacterial cleaners that could disrupt beneficial bacteria.
- Close your toilet lid every time you flush.
We don’t mean to be Captain Obvious here, but every time a toilet flushes, bacteria are sprayed up to 6 feet beyond the rim. If your toothbrush is kept in that range, KABAM – just like that, it’s likely contaminated with particulate matter you’d rather not be brushing your teeth with. If everyone who uses the bathroom closes the toilet top before flushing, this one simple act can eliminate the threat of E. coli and S. aureus getting on your toothbrush. If you can’t rely on everyone’s compliance, store your toothbrush somewhere other than the bathroom.
Wash your hands before and after brushing.
Just as bacteria can eject itself from your toilet, it can be transferred from hand to mouth. Washing your hands with hot soapy water can prevent hand-to-mouth bacteria.
Rinse your toothbrush before and after each use.
In the same way washing your hands is beneficial for limiting bacterial contamination, rinsing your toothbrush in hot water before and after each use can be beneficial. In addition, if you see toothpaste or food debris in the bristles of your brush, make sure you rinse it out. Fanning out the bristles while rinsing under hot water is one way to achieve this. Before storing, tap the brush on the sink to remove excess water. But never put your toothbrush in a microwave or dishwasher to clean them. Each of these appliances can impair the integrity of the brush.
Store your toothbrush in direct sunlight.
While there are many disinfecting agents you could swish your toothbrush in, such as chemical-laden mouthwashes designed to kill all bacteria, we recommend you don’t overshoot the mark. Many forms of bacteria are actually beneficial and help defend your oral health. To stop the pathogenic progeny of some bacteria, store your toothbrush in direct natural sunlight for 6 hours between brushing. The ultraviolet radiation in natural sunlight acts as a disinfectant and is particularly effective on moisture-related bacteria. If you prefer a disinfectant, we recommend a DIY mixture of water, baking soda, and an essential oil such as this one. Spritz it on after your final rinse – post-brush – and rinse before you brush again.
Let your toothbrush dry out between brushings.
Direct sunlight not only disinfects, it helps your toothbrush dry. A dry brush decreases the ability for pathogenic bacteria to thrive. Since it takes about 6 hours for direct sunlight to completely dry a brush out, you may need to rotate between more than one brush to ensure you always start with a dry one.
Maintain your independence.
Just as you would never want to share someone else’s toothbrush, you’re going to want to get rid of the communal toothbrush holder. Multiple moist toothbrushes in one holder have a greater tendency to cross-contaminate. This potential is the same reason you never want to share someone else’s brush. Ever. Store your toothbrush separate from others, upright with the bristles at the top. Never cover the brush tip for long periods of time. Dark, moist environments are akin to a bacterial orgy.
When in doubt, toss it out!
If you’ve been sick, rather than try to disinfect your toothbrush, toss it and start fresh with a new one. Likewise, if you see that the bristles no longer stand straight or are slanting out to the sides, it won’t clean your teeth as effectively.
We know that our mouths harbor all types of microorganisms. With brushing, some of these are likely deposited on your toothbrush where they can multiply and, with routine brushing, reenter the body. With just a bit of attention and intention, potential issues can be averted easily.
Image by Ali Edwards