Do you know what's lurking on your toothbrush?
Your toothbrush is loaded with germs, say researchers at England's University of Manchester. They've found that one uncovered toothbrush can harbor more than 100 million bacteria, including E. coli bacteria, which can cause diarrhea, and staphylococci ("staph") bacteria that cause skin infections.
But don't panic. Your mouth wasn't exactly sterile to begin with.
Mouthful of Bacteria"The bottom line is, there [are] hundreds of microorganisms in our mouths every day," says Gayle McCombs, RDH, MS, associate professor and director of the Dental Hygiene Research Center at Old Dominion University.
That's no big deal. Problems only start when there is an unhealthy balance of bacteria in the mouth. McCombs says.
"It's important to remember that plaque -- the stuff you're removing from your teeth -- is bacteria," says dentist Kimberly Harms, DDS, consumer advisor for the American Dental Association. "So you're putting bacteria on your toothbrush every time you brush your teeth."
Could Your Toothbrush Be Making You Sick?Probably not. Regardless of how many bacteria live in your mouth, or have gotten in there via your toothbrush, your body's natural defenses make it highly unlikely that you're going to catch an infection simply from brushing your teeth.
"Fortunately, the human body is usually able to defend itself from bacteria," Harms says. "So we aren't aware of any real evidence that sitting the toothbrush in your bathroom in the toothbrush holder is causing any real damage or harm. We don't know that the bacteria on there are translating into infections."
Still, you should exercise some common sense about storing your toothbrush, including how close it is to the toilet.
To continue reading this article, Dr. Baker, your Manhattan Beach dentist recommends going to Web MD, here.