Plaque is bacteria. When you brush your teeth, you’re transferring plaque from your teeth to your toothbrush. Rinsing should remove the majority of any residue, but inevitably some will stick around and accumulate on those nylon bristles. In fact, your average toothbrush can contain more than 100 million bacteria.
Bacteria in Your Mouth
Your mouth contains hundreds of microorganisms on a regular basis, so your body can easily defend against a few extra germs. However, if you’re careless with your toothbrush and don’t use common sense, you might be inviting a bacterial attack into your mouth.
Think of it in terms of eating: you wouldn’t eat right after using the restroom without first washing your hands, so don’t brush your teeth right after flushing either. Whenever you flush, it sends up a tiny spray of toilet water into the air. You wouldn’t store your dishes a few inches away from the toilet, so your toothbrush shouldn’t be right next to the toilet either. Many bathrooms are small, and the counter is often right next to the toilet, but it basically means don’t put your toothbrush on the side closest to the toilet.
How to Keep Your Toothbrush Clean
Your toothbrush will never be completely germ-free, and that’s fine. Many germs don’t affect your mouth at all. The important thing is just to make sure you’re not encouraging excessive germs. Here are a few tips to help you avoid a bacteria party on your toothbrush.
This should go without saying, but don’t share your toothbrush. In fact, don’t even let the head of your toothbrush touch the head of someone else’s toothbrush, because it can exchange germs very easily. You may be tempted to justify sharing a toothbrush by saying that kissing someone is no different. That would be incorrect. You don’t scrub the germy plaque out from between someone’s teeth when you kiss them, but your toothbrush sure does.
Let it Dry
Store your toothbrush out in the open, where it can dry after each use. If you store it in an enclosed container or cover, it will remain moist, which is the perfect environment for bacteria to breed. On that same note, store it upright so the brush head has the best exposure to open air.
After you brush your teeth, make sure you rinse your toothbrush thoroughly (even scrubbing it against your finger, if necessary) to get of residue like toothpaste, saliva, plaque and other substances from your mouth. Don’t rely on a toothbrush sanitizer or other product, because even they can’t kill all the germs on your toothbrush. If you think a toothbrush sanitizer might help you, make sure to check if it was reviewed by the FDA.
Replace it Regularly
Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months. Over time, your toothbrush wears down and bacteria builds up. Every 3-4 months, just chuck it and get a new one. Do this even more often if you have a weak immune system or if you were recently ill. For more information, check out this post on how to choose a toothbrush.
Before you swear off brushing forever, remember that there are plenty of germs living in your mouth on a regular basis, and most of them are completely harmless. The same goes for your toothbrush. Normal use and care should keep you perfectly healthy. In fact, if you avoid brushing your teeth altogether, the bacteria in your mouth will become much worse, and could easily lead to cavities, infections and rotting teeth. I would take a germy toothbrush over that any day.