What’s Growing on Your Toothbrush?

Enriquez, Angelica, Abby Hansen, Anitra Moore, Yahya Yahya, and Michael Elftman

Many people are unaware of the importance of changing their toothbrush every three to four months, and the different ways of cleaning it as recommended by the healthcare provider.  Microorganisms may originate not only from the oral cavity, but also from the environment where the toothbrushes are stored. The purpose of this study was to educate patients, as well as dental professionals of the importance of reintroducing pathogenic bacteria to the oral cavity with toothbrushes and the several methods of keeping it clean. In this study a bacterial sampling using agar plates was conducted on toothbrushes left in bathrooms for two months, four months, and six months. Bacteria were detected on toothbrushes after two and fourth months. In addition, at the end of the six month time frame the use of chlorhexidine, Listerine Zero, distilled water, and ultraviolet light was used to determine any impact in the reduction of bacterial colonies. During the final sampling, there was no bacterial colonization on toothbrushes that were cleaned with chlorhexidine or exposed to UV light, but bacterial colonization was detected on toothbrushes that were cleaned with distilled water or Listerine Zero. It can be concluded that bacteria can colonize on toothbrushes within the two months when exposed to aerosols. This suggests that users should follow recommendations that toothbrushes be replaced after three months.