Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Experts Aren't Always Right

**There is an update below the original post...

They say you shouldn't write a blog post when you're angry but I figure what the hay, I do angry well.

I work with a group that works with kids. Because our kids eat, we also provide toothbrushes for them.

Last year (and years previous), the toothbrushes were stored in a box that was fitted with a few (brand new) heating grate covers. The heating grate covers worked well, they stored the toothbrushes upright and had separators in them that made sure the brushes stayed about 2" apart from each other. Each toothbrush also had a travel cover on it and was marked with the child's name.

When we asked Public Health to provide us with toothbrushes this year, they told us they didn't like our storage system and they came in to give the kids toothbrushes and show us how to store them "properly".

When the day finally came, the Public Health officer provided each child with their own toothbrush, travel cover and tube of toothpaste and put them in a plastic ziploc bag. I questioned the bag and asked the official why, knowing that the toothbrushes would not dry out if sealed in a baggie. Our team was told, "They may not dry out completely but at least this way, the kids will only be getting their own germs and not someone else's."

After the Public Health officer left, our team still questioned the practise but decided that we needed to follow the rules laid out for us.

Now we fast forward to today, as I help a child find his toothbrush bag in the bin. As I'm rummaging through, I start seeing some really gross bags. Upon closer inspection, a serious case of mould growing in many of the toothbrush bags. *gag*

My germophobic self springs into action, showing the bags to my team and gathering up the supplies to get our kids new toothbrushes. I'm shaking with anger and disgust. Normally, I would have been at this job earlier in the week and would have caught the problem sooner but my a different member of my family has been sick each day for the last week. I'm wondering how many of these kids were brushing their teeth with a mouldy toothbrush yesterday and the day before. I'm wondering why I was brushed off so lightly as I brought up these concerns when Public Health visited us in October.

It's a good reminder that sometimes, you have to go with your gut and against the recommendations of so-called experts.

As a parent, I know my kids are sharing germs every moment they're alive, especially at school. Frankly, I'd rather take the chance of them sharing a few germs because their toothbrushes are under a cover and stored 2" away from another child's toothbrush than brushing their teeth with a mouldy toothbrush that's been festering with bacteria because it's in a sealed baggie with no chance to dry out.

Would you want your kid brushing their teeth with this on it?
Photo: Courtesy
I've asked my team leader to immediately go out and purchase the products we need to make a new storage box. Long term, it may not be the perfect toothbrush storage solution but for now, I'd rather say screw it to the rules than chance any of our kids brushing their teeth with a putrefying bacterial time bomb.

**UPDATE (12/8/2013): Public Health has been looking into this issue. So far, they have let us know that they won't be suggesting this storage method anymore. They are still concerned about infection control and they have asked us to suspend our toothbrushing program until they have decided on a better storage method for toothbrushes. It is not ideal from our point of view but hopefully a new solution will be presented to us soon.

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