Toothbrushes are a known source for contamination. While that may sound alarming, it generally should not cause concern. Most of that contamination is the presence of your own fecal matter, and your body is accustomed to the flora. It becomes problematic when bathrooms are communal, like in dorms at colleges. A recent study at Quinnipiac University seems to confirm this according to data presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.
Study participants who share communal bathrooms (averaging 9.4 people per bathroom) had their toothbrushes collected. Despite the method of storage, at least 60 percent of toothbrushes collected had fecal coliform. There was no difference between toothbrushes that were rinsed with hot water, cold water, or mouthwash. Further, 80 percent of the toothbrushes had fecal coliform from someone other than the user of the toothbrush.
“Using a toothbrush cover doesn’t protect a toothbrush from bacterial growth, but actually creates an environment where bacteria are better suited to grow by keeping the bristles moist and not allowing the head of the toothbrush to dry out between uses,” said Lauren Aber, MHS (Graduate Student, Quinnipiac University.
“Better hygiene practices are recommended for students who share bathrooms both in the storage of their toothbrush but also in personal hygiene,” Aber said. The American Dental Association (ADA) has general recommendations for toothbrush care that should be followed. According to the ADA:
- Do not share toothbrushes.
- Do not cover toothbrushes or store them in closed containers.
- Thoroughly rinse toothbrushes after use to remove all debris and toothpaste.
- Replace toothbrushes every three to four months.