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When you brush your teeth, you can almost feel them getting cleaner as you scrub away the day’s meals and drinks. How would you feel if you found out you were really brushing your teeth with fecal matter? This is a real concern, as recent research has found. Learn more about how to avoid this health threat.
How Fecal Matter Gets on Your Toothbrush
Your toilet isn’t the cleanest place in your bathroom. Even if you clean it multiple times a day, it’s still a host to thousands of bacteria that feed on the urine and fecal matter left behind.
Fecal matter lives on the sides of the toilet and in the water within. When you flush the toilet, minuscule drops of this water fly into the air. They often bring bacteria and other unwelcome guests with them.
It’s easy to see how these bacteria can then settle on your toothbrush and wait to be transported to your mouth the next time you brush your teeth. The American Society for Microbiology notes that a recent study found fecal matter on almost 55% of toothbrushes.
Effects on Your Health
Fecal bacteria isn’t anything anyone ever looks forward to getting, but it’s especially bad in this situation. Your mouth is the perfect home for bacteria, thanks to the temperature and moisture levels it maintains. Any infection or bacteria that gets into your body this way can spread quickly.
It’s important to note that the risk doesn’t come from your own fecal matter, as unpleasant as it may still be. The bacteria found in your fecal matter is part of your body’s flora, and so is unlikely to cause disease. The problems come when your toothbrush comes into contact with other people’s bacteria and fecal matter.
Side effects can range from mild to severe, from an upset stomach to severe dehydration or gastrointestinal illness. It’s like playing Russian roulette every time you brush your teeth, so it’s best to prevent it altogether.
Preventing the Spread of Bacteria via Toothbrushes
The most obvious solution may be putting on a toothbrush cover. However, a toothbrush cover really just creates a moist, dark environment in which bacteria can reproduce. Instead, think about changing your toothbrush storage habits and toothbrush usage habits:
- Rinse your toothbrush after every use: This doesn’t kill all the bacteria on your toothbrush; however, a good rinse can get the vast majority off.
- Do not store your toothbrush on the sink or near the toilet: Instead of these areas, store your toothbrush in a closed cupboard where it cannot be touched by toilet water droplets.
- Replace your toothbrush often: Toothbrushes should be replaced every three to four months or more often if you are a vigorous brusher.
- Don’t share toothbrushes: It seems harmless, but it’s not. Everyone gets their own toothbrush—period.
- Put the toilet cover down before you flush: This will prevent fecal infected toilet water from splashing up and getting on your toothbrush
Knowing what may be lurking on your toothbrush may gross you out, but it’s the first step to preventing infection! By storing and using your toothbrush safely, you can avoid spreading bacteria in your body.