Beware of Brushing Your Teeth in Public Restrooms: Toothbrush Contamination

study finds fecal contamination in toothbrushesRecent research was performed at Quinnipiac University regarding the use of toothbrushes in public bathrooms. The findings were as expected: fecal contamination was detected on the toothbrushes being observed*.

The Hard Results

  • • Fecal coliforms were seen on 54.85% of toothbrushes in communal bathrooms where an average of 9.4 occupants were present.

  • • There is an 80% chance that the fecal coliforms seen on the toothbrushes came from another person using the same bathroom.

  • • No differences seen with the effectiveness of decontamination methods (i.e. hot water rinsing, mouthwash, cold water, etc.)

  • • 100% of the toothbrushes regularly rinsed with mouthwash had MacConkey agar growth indicating fecal contamination.
    What The Study Means…
    First off, this research further confirms old studies that have been already been performed on the subject matter. Second off, the main issue is not with your own fecal contamination, but that of the others using the restroom.
    In short, these studies all point to one thing: AVOID using a toothbrush in a public or communal restroom/bathroom. These environments house many different people who come and go, leaving trace amounts of bacteria each time.
    The worst part is that decontamination methods showed no difference in toothbrush contamination. This means that even if you believe running hot water or mouthwash over your toothbrush will destroy all bacteria, chances are it will not.
    Is your house safe? Well, not necessarily. Even if you share the bathroom with just one other person, your toothbrush is at risk for contamination – especially if you have a toothbrush that is stored open in the bathroom. At the very least, cover it with a cover that will allow the toothbrush to dry and sanitize it as often as you can. Also, try getting in to the habit of swapping your toothbrush out roughly every 3 months.

    Researchers Pinpoint Plant Chemical That Prevents Tooth Decay

    plant chemical tooth decayStudy Background:
    Researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry have found that a chemical compound known as trans-chalcone may seriously help in the prevention of tooth decay.
    Trans-chalcone is a compound that is related to chemicals naturally found in licorice root. Licorice root is a natural substance that offers many holistic benefits.
    The study suggests that trans-chalcone blocks certain enzyme activity responsible for supporting bacteria in our mouths. The bacteria are known as Streptococcus mutans.
    Streptococcus mutans is a bacterium that feeds off of the foods and sugars in our mouth. The byproduct of this process is an acid that leads to decay if you do not follow a strict dental hygiene routine.

    What The Researchers Found

    What the researchers found is that trans-chalcone literally blocks the harmful bacteria from assembling protective layers, known as biofilm, which binds to our teeth and leads to decay.
    They found this by analyzing a 3D structure of the enzyme, Sortase A, and observing trans-chalcone’s effect on disrupting the harmful bacteria’s biofilm construction process.
    What the Study Means for Dentistry and the Future of Oral Care Products?
    Currently a lot of oral care products contain chemicals that provide varied effectiveness in providing cavity protection, however, with these new findings we may be able to see more natural alternatives that offer more effectiveness without unwanted side effects.
    The researchers concluded that further studies will be conducted to gain more insight into this phenomenon – opening doors to more natural oral care product options for consumers to choose from.
    The researcher who led the study commented, “We were delighted to observe that trans-chalcone inhibited Sortase A in a test tube and stopped Streptococcus mutans biofilm formation. We are expanding our study to include similar natural products and investigate if they can be incorporated into consumer products. This exciting discovery highlights the potential of this class of natural products in food and healthcare technologies.”