Protect Yourself From The Flu By Using A Clean Toothbrush.

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Here is a summary of a great article from “The Maryland Children’s Oral Health Institute”. It provides some very practical tips to keep you healthy during cold and flu season (did this season ever end from last year?). We hope you can find a few ideas you can use! There are 15 suggestions. For those of us with a bit of OCD (me included), don’t panic.

Remember: these are suggestions !!!!!


Your hands are the main vehicles of transmission for the influenza virus. It is for this reason that the main recommendation to prevent [colds and the flu] is to wash your hands frequently.


The bacteria that cause E. coli, salmonella and gastrointestinal problems are found on the hands. You can remove many of these bacteria by washing your hands and scrubbing your fingernails. After all, you wash your hands before you put food utensils in your mouth to eat. Thus, it makes perfect sense to wash your hands before you put your toothbrush into your mouth.


1. Washing your hands after you brush is important as well. This hygiene practice will help reduce the spread of microorganisms as a result of the contact your hands make with your face, lips and mouth.

Washing your hands after you brush will reduce what you “hand over” to others. People are vulnerable to the germs that end up on their hands and under their fingernail beds. Good hand hygiene can make the difference between staying healthy and getting sick.


2. Wash your toothbrush before and after every use. Hold the brush under running warm water. The warm water will soften the bristles and help to release food particles and excess toothpaste. Rub your thumb over the bristles with force while now allowing cold water to wash away any remaining debris and toothpaste. The cold water will cause the toothbrush bristles to regain firmness and may limit the reproduction of flu-causing germs.


3.Disinfect your toothbrush by allowing it to soak in an antibacterial mouthwash. Stir it with the bristled end of your toothbrush for 30 seconds. Mouthwash containing alcohol will kill off most of the bacteria. You can also mix 2 teaspoons of baking soda in 1 cup of water and soak your toothbrush

in the solution if you don’t have mouthwash.


4. Another option is to store your toothbrush in a 3% Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) topical solution that is changed daily. Using enough of the solution to cover the bristles can keep your toothbrush disinfected. A quick way is to mix 1 teaspoon of peroxide in 1 cup of water and swish your toothbrush in it prior to use.


5. Soaking your toothbrush in vinegar once a week overnight can also help kill germs. White vinegar is preferable; brown vinegar might stain the bristles.


6. Using a tablet of denture cleanser like Polident® is another quick way to sanitize your toothbrush. This antibacterial cleaning system has detergents and enzymes that aid in the breakdown of food proteins. The effervescent or foaming action (Sodium Bicarbonate and Citric Acid) provides a

mechanical cleaning action to loosen particles trapped between the bristles. Be sure to thoroughly rinse the denture cleaner from your toothbrush bristles and handle. **I personally find this a very effective way to keep the brush sanitized and free of residual toothpaste.**


7.  Deep clean your toothbrush by securing it in the top rack or in the silverware rack of the dishwasher. Avoid putting the toothbrushes in the lower rack as the handles could melt. The same applies to

tongue scrapers. It is also a good idea to routinely decontaminate your dental water jet reservoir and the tips (i.e., Waterpik) in the dishwasher. Just don’t use the dishwasher setting for the pots and pans

wash cycle as it may prove to be too hot.


8.  Avoid side-by-side storage of toothbrushes. Toothbrushes should be kept inches apart. Every family member should have a clearly identifiable, color-coded brush to avoid cross contamination. Store your toothbrush upright to expose bristles to the air. The Colgate® GRIP EMS® and the Crayola

G.U.M. toothbrushes stand upright independently. The design of the bases allows these toothbrushes to be positioned away from other brushes helping to reduce the chances of intimate contact.


9.  Keep your toothbrush as far away from your toilet as possible to cut down on airborne bacteria from waste. Every time you flush you propel the germs from your toilet into the air where they can land on your toothbrush. These fine droplets of toilet water can hover in the air for as long as two hours, eventually settling on all surfaces throughout the bathroom. Always flush the toilet with the top lid closed.


10.  Replace your toothbrush at the first sign of bent bristles. Worn toothbrushes have bristles with broken, frayed and sometimes sharp edges. These brushes are less effective in removing plaque and can damage the gums, even causing bleeding. Dentists recommend replacing your toothbrush every season, every quarter or every three to four months – however you wish to remember.


11.  Air-dry your toothbrush by shaking the excess water from the bristles. Running your thumb or finger across the bristles will also help to remove the water.


12. Clean toothbrush covers with soap and water. Covers should be placed over the bristles of a dry toothbrush when possible. Plastic covers that fit over bristles keep them free of airborne or hand-held contamination.


13.Frequently clean the toothbrush holder with soap and water. Wall mounted toothbrush holders, as well as cups, cans and stands should be wiped down using disposable wipes to remove germs. Establish a routine of wiping down the countertop in front of and around the sink where you just

brushed; this tidy routine will remove toothpaste-filled saliva droplets. By no means should icky globs of toothpaste remain in the sink after brushing.


14. Purchasing toothpaste in a pump dispenser can help to eliminate the inclusion of every household member’s germs becoming one more ingredient in the family tube. Almost everyone makes direct contact with their toothbrush when they squirt toothpaste onto it. Hold your brush away from the tip of the pump. This can help to reduce the chances that contact will be made between the toothpaste and the toothbrush. Aquafresh toothpaste by GlaxoSmithKline comes in a pump dispenser (although is very abrasive).


15.  Throw your toothbrush away or the toothbrush of anyone in your home who gets a contagious sickness such as a cold, flu or strep throat. Any toothbrushes that come into contact with the contaminated toothbrush should also be thrown away. Brushes should also be changed at the onset of

an illness and again after you feel completely better. Erin R. Drew, MD, FAAP, a Board Certified Pediatrician says she routinely advised the parents of her patients to “replace their toothbrushes after you are no longer contagious, but before finishing the antibiotics.” She explained that “bacteria can live in the toothbrush and re-infect you when the antibiotics are done.” Dr. Drew was a practicing physician prior to joining a pharmaceutical company as a medical scientist. Existing scientific research clearly shows that infectious agents like the influenza viruses can thrive for significant periods on a toothbrush.



Here’s to a healthier, cold/flu season!