Brushing your teeth in the shower can shave a few minutes off your personal care routine, making it a win from the standpoint of efficiency. But is it the best idea in regards to hygiene?
Around 4 percent of Americans say the shower is their go-to spot for brushing, according to a survey from Delta Dental.
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You might save some water, too. Turns out, brushing at the sink with the tap running uses about four gallons of water per week, according to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.
There can be some dirty downsides, though. Read on to learn the pros and cons of brushing your teeth in the shower.
The Effects of Brushing Your Teeth in the Shower
Researchers haven't really conducted studies on what happens when you brush your teeth while showering.
That said, findings in the November 2022 issue of PNAS Nexus have shown that many shower heads harbor high levels of bacteria such as Mycobacterium avium, which can cause lung infections when inhaled or swallowed.
For that reason, some experts say it's better to stick with brushing at the sink. It's possible that the bacteria on your shower head could get picked up by the shower stream and end up in your mouth while you brush, says Michael Wei, DDS, a dentist with Manhattan Cosmetic Dentist in New York City.
Meanwhile, others acknowledge that it can be more convenient to handle teeth cleaning in the shower.
"Using something like a WaterPik (like this one on Amazon, $59.99) or water flosser might be even easier to use in the shower without making a mess of the bathroom," says Richard M. Lipari, DDS, a dentist with Lipari and Mangiameli Dentistry in Chappaqua, New York.
There's one thing both dentists agree on, though. You definitely don't want to leave your toothbrush in the shower in between bathing or brushing sessions.
"The wet environment provides ideal conditions for bacteria to grow, so making sure your toothbrush can dry appropriately and quickly is important," Dr. Lipari says.
You're better off bringing your toothbrush out of the shower and putting it in a dedicated toothbrush holder or cup, Dr. Wei says. (Just make sure the toothbrush holder is far away from the toilet.)
Other Brushing Tips to Keep in Mind
Decided to continue on brushing while showering? Apart from storing your toothbrush outside the shower, there's more advice worth keeping in mind.
First, make it a point to brush your teeth before soaping up. Brushing first and washing your face and body second gives you the opportunity to rinse any toothpaste or saliva off your skin, Dr. Lipari says.
Second, have a clean cup of water (from the tap) within arm's reach so you can rinse your mouth and your toothbrush, Dr. Wei recommends. (Consider keeping it on the vanity and grabbing it when you need it.) That way you're not exposing yourself to potentially germy shower water when you need to rinse the toothpaste out of your mouth.
Third, don't forget to floss when you get out of the shower. And while you're "brushing up" on your brushing habits, make sure you're actually doing it right.
Even though most of us think we have the hang of it, tooth-brushing mistakes are more common than you might think.
So, How Bad Is It Really to Brush Your Teeth in the Shower?
Cleaning your teeth in the shower might expose you to bacteria that could potentially harm your dental and overall health. So if you want to err on the side of caution, you're better off brushing at the sink.
If you do decide to stick with brushing in the shower (let's face it — it's convenient), make sure to store that toothbrush somewhere dry when you're done.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.