Is there danger lurking in your bathroom? Some dental health experts think so and the culprit is something you use every day -- your toothbrush.
Recent studies with dogs found that when the animals had their teeth brushed in the same manner humans do -- daily and with the same unsterilized toothbrush -- the animals got lesions in their mouths and even bacteria in their bloodstream. That's because bristles on a toothbrush aren't necessarily smooth like they seem. They're actually very porous (great breeding ground for bacteria) and become jagged with use, which allows them to create small wounds where bacteria can enter the bloodstream.
Does that mean you need to change your tooth brushing habits? It depends on who you talk to. Some health experts think the idea of disinfecting your toothbrush is silly, an overreaction to being afraid of germs. Others think that toothbrushes should never be kept in a bathroom, and instead should be stored on your bedroom window sill, where the sun's UV rays can kill bacteria. Some even think that toothbrushes should be replaced as often as every two weeks.
Where you stand on toothbrush hygiene is a highly personal issue, but experts agree that you should follow these tips at a bare minimum to keep your toothbrush and your pearly whites healthy and happy:
Never share your toothbrush. Exposing yourself to your own bacteria is unlikely to make you sick, but when you share, you cross-contaminate -- a big no-no.
Rinse your toothbrush well after every use.
Store toothbrushes upright in a place where they can air dry (not in a drawer!). If family members share a space, make sure the toothbrush heads don't touch when being stored.
Replace your toothbrush every three months or when it shows signs of wear. Children's toothbrushes may need to be replaced more frequently.
Throw away your toothbrush after an illness or after you visit a hotel room. Never set your toothbrush on the bathroom counter, where it can pick up more bacteria.