4 Signs It’s Time to Toss Your Toothbrush

If you throw your toothbrush in the trash every time you get sick, it may be unnecessary: Toothbrushes you use while you have strep or a sore throat don’t continue to harbor the germs you had while sick, according to a new study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies in Washington, D.C., last week.

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston tested toothbrushes to see whether A streptococcus, the bacteria that causes strep, was present. Of the 54 brushes examined, 14 had been used by participants with strep throat, 13 had been used by participants with a sore throat (but not strep), and 27 were used by healthy participants. The bacteria was detected on just one of the toothbrushes—and it had been used by a healthy participant.

While these findings suggest it’s probably safe to keep your toothbrush even if you’ve used it while sick, there are other times when it’s best to say buh-bye to your brush. The main one: If it’s been three months since your last switch, it’s time to grab a new brush, says Carolyn Taggart-Burns, DDS, fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry. Here, she shares a few other instances in which you really need to trash yours:

The bristles are worn
Any time they’ve lost their rigidity or their color, it’s a good indication that you’re due for a new brush. Another thing to keep in mind: If you have toothpaste buildup, it’ll harbor tons of bacteria, says Taggart-Burns. So consider that another sign it’s time for a replacement.

You’ve dropped it…anywhere
Not that the two-second rule applies in general, but it really doesn’t apply to toothbrushes. “We brush our teeth in one of the dirtiest rooms in our house,” says Taggart-Burns. Your toothbrush can pick up bacteria even if you’ve just dropped it in the sink for a few seconds. As a general rule of thumb, if your toothbrush ends up anywhere it’s not supposed to be, just toss it.

You bumped toothbrushes with your roommate
The second your toothbrush touches someone else’s (or—gross—they use it), you’re basically swapping hosts of different bacteria with that person, says Taggart-Burns. Whether this might make you sick really depends on the person in question and how close you are. For example, you and your significant other are sharing the same bacteria to begin with, so using his brush (or vice versa) probably won’t expose you to any foreign bacteria that might make you ill. If, however, your brush touches anyone else’s, you’d better hit the store for a new one.

You’ve been traveling
If your toothbrush has been in a closed container for more than a day, you should probably throw it out. Since bacteria will grow in any moist environment, it’s important to let your brush dry as fully and as quickly as possible between uses to cut back on grimy germ growth.

To keep your toothbrush as bacteria-free as possible while you travel, look for a container that has holes for ventilation and let it air out as soon as you reach your destination. You can also keep your case clean by throwing it in the dishwasher after each use; the heat will knock out any bacterial growth.

Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from WH:
8 Ways to Beat Bad Breath
How Clean Teeth Keep You Healthy
The Cure for Sensitive Teeth

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5 Signs He’ll Be a Great Father

Wish you could know for sure if the guy you’re dating will end up having Hugh Jackman-level dad appeal? Well, if he’s sensitive, thoughtful, and supportive, you can breathe easy. The same qualities that make a guy a great boyfriend are the ones that will make him a good parent, according to a new study published online in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Researchers in the UK recruited 125 couples with kids between the ages of 7-8. The couples completed individual surveys to assess their romantic attachment style, their parenting habits, and how responsive they were to their partner. Researchers found that a secure attachment was associated with authoritative parenting—the ideal parenting style known for setting clear boundaries in a warm environment. They also found that responsive caregiving (things like picking up on your partner’s cues and showing support when needed) was the common link between the two.

Essentially, people with secure attachments showed more thoughtful behaviors like supportiveness and sensitivity, and those qualities carried over into their parenting. “Responsive caregiving is an important feature of loving relationships, and having that quality in a relationship with your partner means you’re more likely to also have it in one with your kids,” says lead study author Abigail Millings, Ph.D., research collaborator at the University of Brighton.

Hoping to decipher his dad potential? Keep an eye out for these good signs:

He knows when you need an ice-cream-and-sweatpants night
If your guy can tell when you’re having a rough day and always knows exactly how to cheer you up—he’s a keeper. Plus, he’ll probably be a great father. “Being tuned in to the other person and knowing what they might need in a given situation are known to be important in all attachment relationships—be they with partners, children, or friends,” says Millings. If he’s super attentive with you, he might be that good at anticipating the needs of your future kids.

He’s not bummed when plans change at the last second
Being adaptable is a great trait in a boyfriend—like when the restaurant loses your reservation and he swoops in with Chinese takeout—but it’s pretty much a requirement in a parent. If he keeps his cool when things go haywire now, chances are he’ll be better equipped to deal with unpredictable children down the line. “Look at if he manages change well,” says Susan Fletcher, Ph.D., author of Parenting in the Smart Zone. “You have to be adaptable in order to put someone else’s needs first.”

He still does his own thing
Scoring a secure attachment doesn’t mean you have to be that couple who can’t function without each other. In fact, a guy who gives up too much of himself in a relationship might not cope well when a few children are thrown into the mix. It’s healthy for him to hold on to his man cave and his Fantasy Football league. “It’s important to see that he can take care of his own needs and not just yours,” says Fletcher. “That’s the best predictor of if he’ll be able to do that with children.”

He supports you—but not too much
It sounds counterintuitive, but you don’t want your partner to be so supportive that he becomes a micromanager. Cheering you on and prepping you for an interview are great—but if he’s rewriting your resume and telling you what to wear, that may be going too far. “It’s possible to be there for you and still have boundaries,” says Fletcher. “If he’s too strong of a caretaker and protector, that may translate into his parenting.” To avoid ending up with a helicopter parent, look for a guy who’s helpful without being controlling.

He lets you know when he’s upset
Even if you’re generally on the same page with each other, you’re not a mind reader. So it helps to be with a guy who is open and honest when something is bothering him. If he’s that transparent in your relationship, he’ll probably be just as clear when it comes to setting boundaries with his children. Plus, being able to vocalize his feelings is a sign of emotional intelligence, which is crucial in parenting, says Fletcher.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from WH:
When You Aren’t Sure You Want Kids
What You Should Know About Pregnancy
Are You in an Equal Relationship?

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