Is Your Toothbrush Making You Sick?

Tuesday, 01 Apr 2014 06:40 AM

By Lynn Allison

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If you find that you regularly get sick with colds, the flu, and other bugs that are going around, it may not be your immune system that is to blame fault. Your toothbrush may be compromising your health.

The average toothbrush is a “lightning rod” for dangerous viruses and bacteria, warns a leading dentist.

Dr. Gerry Curatola, clinical professor at the New York University College of Dentistry, says that disease is often transmitted because of improper toothbrush care.

Dr. Curatola, who regularly appears on “The Dr. Oz Show,” says that a contaminated toothbrush can carry influenza and other viruses and a host of pathogenic bacteria including E. coli and strep germs.

“Your contaminated toothbrush may be responsible for transmitting influenza, H1N1 virus, and even antibiotic-resistant staph or MRSA,” Dr. Curatola tells Newsmax Health. “By the sheer variety of germs, toothbrushes can harbor more pathogens than the average toilet seat.”

Dr. Curatola explains that a damp toothbrush provides an ideal breeding ground for illness-causing bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

“When harmful germs are introduced into the mouth with a contaminated toothbrush, it disturbs the natural protective ecology called the oral microbiome and makes you sick,” he says. “This risk is increased if you have a compromised immune system.”

Special: 9 Signs Your Immune System Is Dysfunctional

Here’s what you should do to make sure your toothbrush is not harming your health:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an obvious precaution: Never share your toothbrush with anyone.
  • Dr. Curatola says you should take that measure one step further and avoid storing them in close proximity to each other. If toothbrushes are next to each other, germs can pass between them.
  • Keeping your toothbrush in a closed container also is not recommended, says the CDC, as air-tight enclosures act like “petri dishes,” allowing harmful germs to proliferate.
  • You may have seen UV light toothbrush sterilizers being sold. Dr. Curatola says they are generally ineffective. In fact, they can make the problem worse. “The powerful radiation light has been shown to degrade the toothbrush’s nylon bristles and also alter the DNA of germ cells with the capacity to create superbugs,” he says.
  • Putting your toothbrush into the dishwasher or microwave to sterilize it also is not recommended because it can damage the bristles.
  • After thoroughly rinsing with tap water to remove debris and toothpaste, Dr. Curatola recommends storing your toothbrush inside a breathable toothbrush shield. These inexpensive, disposable sleeves wick away moisture while serving as a barrier that prevents 99.9 percent of both airborne and surface germs from contaminating the bristles. They are widely available at drugstores and act like a surgical mask for your toothbrush.
  • “I also recommend changing your toothbrush or brush head if you use an electric toothbrush every three months,” says Dr. Curatola. “Examine the bristles carefully for wear and tear and change your brush more often if you see signs of damage.”
Special: 9 Signs Your Immune System Is Dysfunctional

© 2014 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

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