|It’s no secret that everyday objects and surfaces are literally breeding grounds for bacteria. Research has shown that communal objects such as office phones, in particular, are teeming with an average of 25,000 bacteria per square inch alone.
Now, a new study has revealed that your toothbrush — ironically — isn’t much cleaner.
A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans revealed the hidden — and gross — dangers of leaving your toothbrush in a shared bathroom.
Researchers from the Quinnipiac University in Connecticut examined the toothbrushes of students who shared a bathroom with at least nine others and found that the majority — 60% — were rife with potentially harmful bacteria as well as fecal matter, regardless of whether the toothbrushes were stored covered or uncovered.
Furthermore, of the contaminated toothbrushes, researchers also found that 80% were contaminated with fecal matter that belonged to someone else other than that of the toothbrush’s owner.
Even those who don’t share a bathroom are still at risk. The researchers also found that those who have a bathroom all to themselves may still be putting their own fecal molecules in their mouths when they brush their teeth. While that may be distasteful, it’s not especially dangerous; the main concern is using a toothbrush contaminated with another person’s fecal matter, which may be brimming with harmful viruses, parasites, and foreign bacteria not a part of one’s own natural flora.
Among the potentially harmful conditions that can be caused by using a contaminated toothbrush are salmonella, which is known to lead to typhoid fever, campylobacterosis, a gastrointestinal infection marked by bloody, loose stools, and of course E.coli, which can lead to anything from a urinary tract infection to a severe case of gastroenteritis.
Surprisingly, the American Dental Association (ADA) concluded there is not much you can do. While some people choose to keep their toothbrushes covered, such as in a case or holder, the ADA says that may actually encourage the growth of bacteria. In addition, dipping your toothbrush in antiseptic mouthwash has little to no effect, as the antiseptic properties of mouthwash simply aren’t strong enough to kill the bacteria on toothbrush’s surface.
Rather, the ADA recommends storing your toothbrush in an upright position, rinsing it thoroughly after each use, and most importantly, replacing it every three to four months. The ADA also recommends closing the toilet seat when you flush, as flushing with an open seat propels fecal bacteria into the air — and onto all the surfaces of your bathroom, including your toothbrush.