Say hello to your toothbrush. Twice a day, you slather it in toothpaste and stick it in your mouth. Oh, and it just might be home to millions of infectious microbes.
Depending on how you store your toothbrush, a host of viruses and bacteria could be thriving in between the damp bristles.
Here's a quick look at six microbes that have been found on toothbrushes.
1. The flu virus
This ever-successful virus isn't just infecting everyone at your office — it may have also taken over your toothbrush. Able to survive up to two days on plastic, metal and wood, the flu offers another reason to keep your toothbrush clean.
2. E. coli
If this bacteria's on your toothbrush, you could end up with diarrhea, a urinary tract infection, respiratory illness or pneumonia.
3. Oral herpes
Yes, you can actually get herpes from a toothbrush. The bristles can harbor the virus after brushing, and you can pick it up if an uninfected toothbrush is stored touching an infected one. The highly contagious virus primarily causes cold sores, but has also been linked to the genital version of the disease.
4. Staphylococci bacteria
Also known as staph, this bacteria can cause a range of lovely conditions, including skin infections, pneumonia, food poisoning, toxic shock syndrome and blood poisoning.
5. Porphyromonas gingivalis
A major contributor to gum disease, this bacterium has no interest in helping you achieve a healthy smile.
This microbe is usually found in the human gastrointestinal tract — so you really don't want to know how it got on your toothbrush. Enterococcus has been linked to anywhere from 24 to 77% of root canals.
Taking the ‘ick' out of your toothbrush
Not interested in brewing your own batch of contagions? With the right know-how, you can make sure the brush you're sticking into your mouth twice a day isn't making you sick.
- Store your toothbrush away from the toilet and sink. Yes, every time you flush with the lid up, you're spraying the entire bathroom with little particles of poo and pee — holy crap!
- Let your toothbrush dry between uses.
- Ditch the toothbrush cover, and disinfect the cup or holder you stand your brush in. With over 3.3 million microorganisms per 1.55 square inches, toothbrush holders are by far the germiest item in your bathroom. They've even fostered the growth of a completely new bacterium, a relative of E. coli and pneumonia.
- Don't let toothbrushes touch, unless you want to cozy up with the oral bacteria living in the mouth of your family members or housemates. And it doesn't matter how in love you are, there's nothing romantic about trading toothbrush bacteria.
- Finally, don't forget: being stingy isn't a virtue when it comes to your toothbrush. Throw it out after three or four months — and after every time you've been sick.
A few words of comfort (or cause for panic) to all the germophobes reading this: It's not just your toothbrush. Your mouth, your digestive system and the world around you are also crawling with microbes.