Share a bathroom? There’s an 80 percent chance your toothbrush has bits of someone else’s poop (and harmful bacteria) on it, according to study from the American Society for Microbiology.
Researchers collected toothbrushes from communal bathrooms at Quinnipiac University (averaging about 9.4 occupants per bathroom). At least 60 percent of them were contaminated with fecal matter, regardless if toothbrushes were stored out in the open, covered in a case or kept in a drawer.
“The main concern is not with the presence of your own fecal matter on your toothbrush, but rather when a toothbrush is contaminated with fecal matter from someone else, which contains bacteria, viruses or parasites that are not part of your normal flora,” says study author Lauren Aber. And in this instance, there was an 80 percent chance the fecal matter seen on the toothbrushes came from someone else using the same bathroom.
So what can you do to keep away the poo? The researchers found rinsing toothbrushes with cold water, hot water, and mouthwash to be ineffective as decontamination methods. They also say using a toothbrush cover doesn’t protect from bacterial growth either; it actually creates an environment where bacteria can thrive, since the bristles stay moist in between uses.
No need to wash out your mouth with soap, though. The researchers recommended you follow the American Dental Association guidelines for toothbrush hygiene. Here are a few to add to your routine:
Don’t swap spit—er, toothbrushes
It may seem harmless to borrow your girlfriend’s toothbrush, but you could be introducing your body to foreign microorganisms that increase your risk for infections.
Keep it dry
After you use your toothbrush, make sure you rinse off any remaining toothpaste and food. Tap off the excess water and store your brush in an upright position to let it air-dry before you next brushing. If you’re keeping it among other toothbrushes, make sure they’re separated to prevent cross-contamination. Also, try to keep it in a cabinet.
Let it breathe
It may seem best to cover your toothbrush with a case or cover, but (as mentioned above) this creates a breeding ground for bacteria. Open air is best.
Trade yours in
You want to replace your toothbrush every three to four months, but if you notice the bristles getting worn out or frayed, chuck it. The effectiveness of you toothbrush worsens.