Dental practitioners highlight three hazards associated with brushing teeth in the shower, including bacteria spread and increased fall risks.
While brushing your teeth in the shower may seem like a convenient way to multitask and save time, dentists from across North America warn that this approach can pose risks to your dental hygiene.
What are the potential issues with brushing your teeth in the shower?
Dentists cite three primary concerns: the impact of high temperatures on toothbrush bristles, the risk of bacteria transfer, and the heightened likelihood of slipping and falling.
Here’s what dental experts want you to know before you abandon the bathroom sink.
High temperatures can harm toothbrush bristles
Dr. Parul Dua Makkar, a dental surgeon and owner of PDM Family Dental in Jericho, New York, cautions against exposing toothbrushes to heat and humidity. According to Makkar, these conditions can weaken the bristles and render the toothbrush ineffective. She advises storing toothbrushes in cool, dry places, away from showers and toilets, where bacteria thrive in damp and humid environments.
The CDC recommends changing toothbrushes every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles appear frayed. To maintain optimal dental health, brush your teeth thoroughly twice daily and floss once a day to eliminate plaque buildup.
Showers increase the risk of cross-contamination
Dr. Arun Narang, a cosmetic and restorative dentist based in Toronto and CEO of Dr. Arun Narang & Associates Smile by Design, explains that brushing your teeth in the shower raises the likelihood of harmful cross-contamination. He says that bathrooms, particularly showers, provide ideal conditions for bacterial growth due to their consistently wet, warm, and sometimes shared nature.
Setting your toothbrush down on a shower wall can transfer bacteria from the surface to the bristles, which can then be transferred to your mouth during subsequent brushing. Narang emphasizes that bathroom sinks present fewer issues because they dry between uses and are not exposed to the same level of steam and dampness as showers.
Is mouthwash enough?
Dr. Fatima Khan, a dental medicine practitioner at Altus Dental in Houston, Texas, warns that even using mouthwash after brushing in the shower cannot guarantee the elimination of potential cross-contamination bacteria. She explains that although certain antiseptic mouthwashes claim to kill 99.9% of oral bacteria, no long-term studies support the idea that mouthwash can counteract the effects of cross-contamination.
Moreover, Khan points out that antiseptic mouthwashes can strip the mouth of beneficial bacteria, potentially harming the oral microbiome.
Tooth-cleaning products can cause slippery shower floors
Using tooth-cleaning products in the shower may increase the risk of slipping and falling, although this risk is comparable to that of other shower products like soaps, body washes, and shampoos. Dr. Khan advises caution when using oil-based mouthwashes, as they can leave a slippery residue on the floor even after showering.
Tips for those who can’t quit brushing in the shower
Despite dental professionals advising against it, some may still want to brush their teeth in the shower. Dr. Amber Bonnaig, a dental surgeon and dental director of DentaQuest Georgia, recommends storing toothbrushes outside the shower to minimize bacteria transfer. Bonnaig emphasizes the importance of brushing twice a day for two minutes, whether in the shower or at a sink, to maintain a healthy mouth.