Oh the Things Living on your Toothbrush…
Did you remember to brush? I hope you did, but you may be throwing away your toothbrush soon. Get ready for your daily amount of gross, because have I got a scientific discovery that will make you rethink your dental hygiene. Researchers have found that “solid-head” power toothbrushes have up to 3,000 times less bacteria when compared to “hollow-head” toothbrushes.
The researchers note that microbial counts were lower in the solid-head toothbrush group than in the two hollow-head toothbrush groups in 9 out of 10 comparisons.
“Toothbrushes can transmit microorganisms that cause disease and infections. A solid-head design allows for less growth of bacteria and bristles should be soft and made of nylon,” Morris said. “It is also important to disinfect and to let your toothbrush dry between uses. Some power toothbrushes now include an ultraviolet system or you can soak the head in mouthwash for 20 minutes.”
The surprisingly obvious study was conducted over a three-week period where participants brushed twice daily with one out of three randomly assigned power toothbrushes. Participants used non-antimicrobial toothpaste (which it should be mentioned that most toothpaste is not antimicrobial) and continued their flossing routine throughout the study, but refrained from using other dental products like mouthwash.
“The packaging on most power toothbrushes won’t distinguish between a hollow-head and a solid-head design,” Morris said. “The best way to identify a solid-head design is through the connection to the body of the power toothbrush. Naturally, there will be some space to connect the two parts but a significant portion will be solid, up to the bristles or brush head.”
During the study the group found that the brush heads were exposed to five categories of oral microorganisms: anaerobes and facultative microorganisms, yeast and mold, oral streptococci and oral enterococci anaerobes, Porphyromonas gingivalis and Fusobacterium species.
The article also mentions that there is no present or published study that has demonstrated that bacterial growth on toothbrushes can lead to systematic health effects, but as Morris stated, several microorganisms have been associated with systemic diseases.
“We do know and there are studies that have linked Fusobacterium to colorectal cancer. Some of these other bacteria have been linked with cardiovascular disease,” Morris said. “There is a high association with gum disease and cardiovascular disease. Researchers have been able to culture the same bacteria around the heart that causes gum disease. ”
So while you shouldn’t worry about getting sick from the bacteria, the news might not be too appetizing. I know as a science fan that there are tons of bacteria and odd things we cannot see living around us, on us, and even in us. But sometimes it’s just better not to point that out.
I think what I’m really trying to say, is that it’s probably time to change my toothbrush.
Morris DW, Goldschmidt M, Keene H, & Cron SG (2014). Microbial contamination of power toothbrushes: a comparison of solid-head versus hollow-head designs. Journal of dental hygiene : JDH / American Dental Hygienists’ Association, 88 (4), 237-42 PMID: 25134956