Last week, as one of our staff members was driving to work, she had to stop as a crossing guard ushered school children across the street. This, of course, is a common sight as we make our way to and from work during the school week, but what went through her mind on this particular day was the phrase, “Clean as a whistle.”
So is this really an oxymoron?
Well, it depends on how clean one keeps said whistle. And for that matter a number of everyday items that frequent our mouths comes to mind: pacifiers, sippy cup lids, wind instruments, mouth guards, ortho retainers, toothbrushes, etc…
Our spit is literally teeming in germs – hundreds of different types! Obviously, it is important to clean items that are repeatedly contaminated by the germs of our mouths because otherwise they become a breeding ground for these bacteria which can result in sore mouths and throats and lead to systemic and oral infections.
Clean Whistle – An Oxymoron?
Always follow manufacturer’s instructions and common sense for cleaning these types of items. Inspect and clean routinely and store as directed. Our bodies and immune systems are designed to deal with microbes and their attacks on our systems, but we must be extra vigilant when we are placing these types of items in our mouth repeatedly. Furthermore, people who’s immune systems are already compromised medically should be extra careful as they are at a higher risk for adverse health effects.
At Your Smile Dental Care we care for mouths as well as teeth. You may not notice, but we are always scanning your mouth as we treat and restore teeth, looking for any signs of abnormalities.
The same approach should be taken with items that are constantly placed in the mouth – scan them frequently looking for cleanliness, or any accumulation of debris or even damage where buildup can hide from the eye.
And when it comes to musical instruments, someone in the music business told us that any deposit inside an instrument, like a harmonica, can harden and actually change the tone and volume of the instrument. Many things come with cleaning instructions, but if they don’t, find out by asking the store personnel where you purchased the item or by calling the manufacturer. Items, like instruments are too expensive to be neglected, but your health is important also.
Most of us just rinse our toothbrushes after use and put them back into their holder, but there are a number of important considerations when it comes to our toothbrushes:
- Rinse your toothbrush thoroughly after use with clean water before storing or you can go the extra step of using warm soapy water to clean it before rinsing and storing.
- Air dry in an upright position.
- Store your brush away from any potential source of contamination (like the toilet).
- Never store it in a closed container as bacteria love warm, dark, moist places.
- Never share your toothbrush.
- Replace it after 3 months, if it begins to show signs of wear or after an illness.
- You may also consider wanting to replace your toothbrush it you find it in a different spot than where you last placed it or if it is wet before use – Someone else may have used it. Gucks!
- Check to make sure there is not debris or toothpaste left over in the bristles before storing it.
- Although not necessary, some people like to soak their toothbrush in some bacterial mouthwash for about 15-20 minutes everyday before storing.
- There is no conclusive evidence that using a dishwasher or microwave is an effective cleaning method, but if you like to use this method just understand that it could damage or change shape of the bristles.
- There is also no evidence that using an ultraviolet sanitizing unit is necessary, but if you like using this method just be sure to check the condition of the bristles often.
- New tooth brush? Always clean it after taking it out of it’s package using warm soapy water and following with a good rinse.
No one is ever going to be able to get their toothbrush 100% clean without the use of a sterilizer, but keeping these tips in mind should give you some “peace of mind” when it comes to toothbrush cleanliness. If you would like more information on toothbrush care, read our blog here.
Sharing is not always Caring
Lastly, a large number of diseases are spread through cross-contamination – it is how germs are shared. It should go without saying then that the “swapping of spit” is inevitable if things that enter our mouths are shared. There is no way of knowing for sure who is carrying an illness, so the best practice is to always be careful not expose yourself to germs where at all possible. Sharing is not always caring and we are all at risk. Being mindful of the factors that increase the spread of germs to one another will help you stay safe and healthy.
Did you hear the joke about germs? We’re not telling you because we don’t want it spread around! lol