25 October 2009

Toothbrush injuries

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 2,953 Americans were treated in 2007 for toothbrush-related injuries. The odds a person will visit an emergency department due to an accident involving a toothbrush in a year are 1 in 99,340, making a toothbrush slightly more dangerous on average than a garage door.

So, what injuries might a toothbrush cause? It is an object designed for safety, after all. Today’s designs have reinforced handles to prevent snaps or breaks at stress points, and the long-traditional boar-hair bristles have largely been replaced by nylon filament, which breeds significantly less bacteria.

Still, toothbrushes—typically by dint of slips and falls—can cut gums or cheeks (from pokes), puncture palates or pharynges (from falling or passing out with a toothbrush in one’s mouth), and break teeth.
More details at the Book of Odds, via the New Shelton wet/dry.

Image credit Duncan Wright, via Wikimedia commons, with this notation: "Albatross bolus - undigested matter from the diet such as squid beaks and fish scales. This bolus from a Hawaiian albatross (either a Black-footed Albatross or a Laysan Albatross) has several injested flotsam items, including monofilament from fishing nets and a discarded toothbrush. Injestion of plastic flotsam is an increasing hazard for albatrosses."


  1. Bill Bryson has a really funny essay on this topic in his book, "I'm a Stranger Here Myself." He talks about how based on statistics you're more likely to get injured by a trampoline than a chainsaw. And clothing and paper money have thousands of reported injuries every year in the US.

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  4. My father is a gastroenterologist. One Easter he was called out of church to do an emergency gastroscopy. He had to remove a toothbrush from someone's stomach. The person had accidentally swallowed it! He was able to take it out just using the endoscope. The alternative would have been surgery so the patient was really relieved.

    The patient said he was brushing his back teeth vigorously and the brush slipped and he must have stuck it down his throat. The man said he was so surprised that the toothbrush was gone that he looked around the bathroom and on the floor before he finally concluded that he had swallowed it, I can't imagine.

    My father and the toothbrush swallowing man got to be in the local newspaper.

    (P.S. blogger needs to let us edit our comments, and I need to check them three times before I publish.)

  5. It was a good post, Richard. I think you meant to remove the duplicate and accidentally removed both.

    Can you repost - or want me to do so from my archived copy>



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