Colds, flu and your toothbrush—tips to keep you healthy

–Dr. Perry Patel, the family dentist in Grover Beach, has a few tips to help you keep your toothbrush cleaner and mouth happier.

Illness can be spread by saliva, which can carries and spread viruses and bacteria. One of the ways we get sick is from saliva and nasal fluid spreading on surfaces we come in contact with. Colds, flu, mononucleosis, herpes, streptococcus, and hepatitis B and C are a few easily transmittable diseases that live in saliva. Spread to other parts of the body, like the nose throat and lungs, these illnesses can become quite awful. Kissing, sharing toothbrushes, and keeping a toothbrush for too long can cause to get sick, or prolong recovery.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the flu virus can live on moist surfaces for up to 72 hours. This is bad news because most of us leave our toothbrushes out in the open air. The moisture gives bacteria and viruses a home to spread.

The tips for a clean toothbrush and good health include:

  • Self care
  • Toothbrush care
  • Sanitizing your toothbrush

Self care

When you’re sick with a bad head cold or flu, the dreaded nighttime dry mouth can put you at greater risk for cavities. Medicines such as antihistamines, decongestants or pain relievers can also dry out your mouth. Grover Beach dentist, Dr. Patel recommend that you drink plenty of water and use sugarless cough drops, throat lozenges or candy to keep your mouth moist. If you have been vomiting, use a mixture of baking soda and water to rinse your mouth. Brush 30 minutes after vomiting to reduce exposure of teeth to gastric acid.

Toothbrush Care

The toothbrush usually sees the worst of bacteria and viruses; it brushes the film off of your tongue, food off the teeth, and for most people, their idea of cleaning is to give the toothbrush a quick rinse in hot water, and put it back into the container. The tool we use each day to scrub our mouths can be a breeding ground for disease. The bacteria that live on a toothbrush after you use it are called anaerobic, which means they can’t survive in oxygen.

“Keeping the toothbrush dry is the best bet,” said the Grover Beach dentist. The toothbrush should be kept extra clean during cold and flu season to help limit the amount of bacteria and viruses you are exposed to. Keep the toothbrush in a well-lighted, dry area. Dark or dank cups in cupboards do not eliminate bacteria as quickly. For families, try and avoid storing multiple brushes in the same holder. It’s best if the toothbrushes cannot contact each other in any way.

How To Sanitize The Toothbrush

It is best to clean your toothbrush weekly. Keep a backup supply of new toothbrushes and replace the old one every three to four months. Replace the old toothbrush with a fresh one after you are over a cold or the flu. The same treatment can be applied to electric toothbrush heads.

Soaking the toothbrush in antibacterial mouthwash, or storing it in peroxide and changing the peroxide between brushings, can help kill bacteria. Sanitizing a toothbrush in the dishwasher can be done, but it is a waste of precious water. Ultraviolet (UV) toothbrush sanitizers are very handy and can be expensive, so just replace any brush that looks like it needs it.

Viruses and bacteria can live for weeks on a person’s toothbrush, and cause illness and infections. By being aware of different ways to reduce exposure to microorganisms, you can help prevent the spread or re-exposure to infections.

Dentist Patel of Grover Beach recommends that to stay healthy, brush and floss daily, wash and dry hands properly, and keep surfaces clean. As mentioned earlier, the CDC reports that the flu virus can live on moist surfaces for up to 72 hours. It's important to keep you toothbrush clean and follow good hygiene habits.

Perry Patel D.D.S. General & Cosmetic Dentistry for the entire family is conveniently located on the Central Coast. With a helpful staff and modern equipment, Dr. Patel makes good oral health easier for everyone in the family. Contact the office today to schedule your appointment.