As an adult in Western society, there are certain things you have to try not to think about on a daily basis, or else you'd go crazy: NSA surveillance, the pervasiveness of the patriarchy although, to be fair, I think about that one a lot anyway), the fact that your toothbrush is contaminated with fecal coliforms, probably... wait, what was that last one?
For your sake, I hope you bought a new toothbrush recently, or else the following information will be so much worse. According to a recent study, toothbrushes in communal bathrooms are almost definitely contaminated with fecal coliforms, aka the bacteria that hang out in your gut rent-free in exchange for digesting the Pop Tarts you had for dinner last night. That, however, isn't the worrisome part. Lauren Aber, MHS, pointed out to Science Daily that we don't really have to worry about the bacteria from our own bodies; it's when everyone else's bacteria joins the party that you need to start panicking. Our bodies are familiar with our own bacteria, but they're not equipped to deal with microbes from other digestive systems. Unfortunately, according to the study, toothbrushes are chock full of other people's bacteria. Researchers at Quinnipiac University analyzed toothbrushes from communal bathrooms with an average of nine occupants, and the results will make you want to buy a new toothbrush every day for the rest of your life. At least 60 percent of toothbrushes contained fecal coliforms, and there is an 80 percent chance that those bacteria came from other people.
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Furthermore, toothbrush covers didn't help at all. In fact, Aber told Science Daily that they "actually create an environment where bacteria are better suited to grow by keeping the bristles moist." If you're congratulating yourself on remembering to dunk your toothbrush in mouthwash every once in a while, don't get too cocky: the study also found that 100 percent of toothbrushes that were regularly rinsed with mouthwash had fecal contamination. There's just no winning.
Unsurprisingly, researchers had a few recommendations for students with communal bathrooms, and they basically boil down to "read the American Dental Association's guidelines for toothbrush hygiene, dummies." If you're interested (and you definitely should be), you can find those guidelines here. If you're quietly panicking about how gross your toothbrush is and trying to remember the last time you cleaned it, you're not the only one. But just to drive the point home, let me just point out all the things that are cleaner than your toothbrush right now:
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It's pretty well known that makeup brushes need cleaning regularly. Remember the lady who got an infection from her friend's brush that left her paralyzed? Even so, at least your makeup brushes don't have fecal bacteria on them.
Your Dog's Mouth
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Although dog mouths aren't actually cleaner than the human variety, they aren't carrying fecal matter around in their mouths. Unless they've just eaten poop, of course, because dogs are weird like that.
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Although a study earlier this year found that subway cars are crawling with bacteria, nearly all of the microbes are harmless to humans, and pathogens were only found in trace amounts.
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Surprisingly, doorknobs aren't as dirty as you'd think. According to microbiologist Charles Gerba, the metal makes them inhospitable to germs... unlike the brush you stick in your mouth twice a day.Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go buy 300 new toothbrushes.
Images: Giphy (3), beepbeeprawrkaboom/Tumblr