By, Jill Meyer-Lippert, RDH
Certain types of cancer treatments can weaken your immune system by causing low blood cell counts, including white blood cells that help the body fight infection. Low white blood cell counts can not only cause delays in your treatments but can result in serious, even life-threatening infections. It is important to take extra steps to protect yourself from viruses and bacteria when your immune system is compromised.
Frequent hand washing, avoiding crowds and people who are sick are a few ways to evade dangerous infections. Another potential source for infection that many overlook is their toothbrush. Toothbrushes can be contaminated with not only viruses, bacteria and fungi from the mouth, but also from the environment where it is stored.
What can you do to protect yourself and your toothbrush?
Let the brush completely dry between each use. Rinse the bristles thoroughly when done brushing and store it in an upright position to dry. Alternating use of more than one toothbrush will ensure the bristles have a chance to thoroughly dry between uses.
Storing your toothbrush in the bathroom can expose it to numerous airborne organisms, even from the toilet. Keeping it in a cup or holder along with other family member’s brushes can spread germs from one brush to another if they are allowed to touch. Most microorganisms thrive in a damp and dark environment, making an enclosed bathroom cabinet an ideal breeding ground for germs.
So, what can you do?
Change your brush at least every three months
When undergoing cancer treatments, it is recommended to use an extra soft toothbrush to avoid trauma to the oral tissues. The extra soft bristles may wear faster than a harder brush. Change your brush at the first sign of bending or fraying of the bristles. Changing it often also helps lower your risks of bacterial build-up on your brush.
Never share your toothbrush
Avoid sharing items that could expose you to some else’s germs, especially your toothbrush!
Do not let your bristles touch the end of the toothpaste tube
When placing toothpaste on your brush, do you wipe or touch the end of the toothpaste tube with your bristles? If so, that tube is now contaminated with germs from your brush. If family members are sharing a tube of toothpaste, it provides another source for passing germs from one another. If your immune system is weakened, consider having your own tube of toothpaste to use.
Avoid plastic travel toothbrush cases
Plastic toothbrush cases can prevent airflow, keeping the bristles moist. Have you ever wondered what that white-colored buildup is that can form inside a plastic toothbrush case? It is called a biofilm. Biofilms are defined as “any group of microorganisms in which cells stick to each other on a surface”. Storing your toothbrush in a plastic case keeps it surrounded by germs.
Protect your brush with IntelliDent Toothbrush Shields
These disposable fabric shields provide a breathable barrier for your brush to allow the bristles to dry while protecting it from airborne bacteria and viruses. It also protects your toothbrush from being contaminated with germs from contacting other items.
Protect yourself by avoiding germs when your immune system is weak. Taking these extra simple steps can help you avoid dangerous infections during cancer treatments.
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