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Do You Really Need to Pitch Your Toothbrush After You’ve Been Sick?

Posted Jun 21 2013 10:27am

germySo just how common is the advice of twice yearly dental visits? Shortly after we learned about the study challenging this acorn, we ran across this list of ways you may unknowingly be “hurting your teeth.” Skipping dental visits is one of them.

But that’s not what caught our attention.

Don’t Use Your Toothbrush After Mouth Sores or the Flu
It’s a good idea to replace your toothbrush after any mouth sores, colds or flu because toothbrushes can easily harbor bacteria. You don’t want to introduce a dirty toothbrush into your mouth. Always get a new toothbrush after any type of illness.

This is another idea being challenged by current research.

According to a study presented last month at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Socieities in Washington, DC, your toothbrush may in fact be okay after at least some infectious illnesses.

Specifically, the researchers looked at the bacterial cause of strep throat, group A streptococci (GAS). After showing that GAS would grow on toothbrushes exposed to the microbe, they had test participants – children between the ages of 2 and 20 – brush their teeth. Some had strep throat; some, sore throat without strep; some with no throat issues. Their brushes were tested afterward.

The results were pretty surprising.

GAS was recovered from only one toothbrush, which had been used by a patient without strep throat. The other study toothbrushes failed to grow GAS but did grow other bacteria that are common in the mouth. [Emphasis added]

Even though it was a small study and much more research is necessary, co-author Dr. Judith Rowen stated that the findings suggest “that it is probably unnecessary to throw away your toothbrush after a diagnosis of strep throat.”

Image by Mandy Jouan , via Flickr


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