No Need to Swap Toothbrush After Strep

Strep throat bacteria did not live on kids toothbrushes in a lab test

(RxWiki News) After having strep throat, many people will replace their toothbrush. However, this may not be necessary to avoid a second round of this bacterial infection.

A small study discovered that the strep throat bacterium did not live on toothbrushes when tested in a laboratory setting.

Streptococcus pharyngitis, known as strep throat, is a relatively common bacterial infection that can cause a high fever and a severe sore throat.

"Replace your toothbrush every 3 months."

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston, led by Lauren K. Shepard, DO, presented these research results at the American Academy of Pediatrics annual conference.

“Practitioners in our area tell children diagnosed with streptococcus pharyngitis to discard their toothbrushes, so we sought to determine if this advice is warranted,” said the study authors.

For this small study, 16 kids with strep throat and 27 kids without strep throat infections, between 2 to 20 years of age, were asked to brush their teeth with a new toothbrush for 1 minute at a clinic. No toothpaste was used in this study.

Each toothbrush was placed in a sterile container and taken to a lab for observation and testing.

“Surprisingly, we found that most 'new' toothbrushes are not sterile and will grow different types of bacilli (rod-shaped bacteria) and Staphylococcus (a type of bacteria),” the study authors said.

These types of bacteria are common in the human mouth.

Only one of the toothbrushes tested positive for the strep throat bacteria in the lab. A child that was not in the strep throat group had used the toothbrush with the strep throat bacteria on it.

The authors concluded that having a strep throat infection did not present enough of a reason to throw away a toothbrush. The study authors recommended further studies on bacterial infections and toothbrush safety on a larger group of subjects.

“This study supports that it is probably unnecessary to throw away your toothbrush after a diagnosis of strep throat,” said Judith L. Rowen, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at UTMB and co-author of this study.

“The recommendation to throw out toothbrushes after illness or even sanitize them periodically may be unfounded as the mouth is an inherently dirty place. Every time you introduce a new or sterile toothbrush to that environment, a variety of germs will begin to grow on that toothbrush,” Dana Fort, DDS, told dailyRx.

“Because these germs are naturally present in your mouth, and your mouth will never be completely sterile, there is no need throw out your toothbrush after illness as these microorganisms living in your body and on the toothbrush will re-balance themselves over time,” she continued.

Dr. Fort was not involved with this study.

The American Dental Association recommends replacing your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.

This research was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting held in Washington, D.C. May 4-7, 2013. This study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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Review Date: 
May 3, 2013