As we’ve talked about in several of our posts, brushing your teeth regularly, attending your regular dental checkups and flossing are all keys to maintaining good oral health, which affects your overall health as well. One step to this we haven’t mentioned lately is taking care of your toothbrush.
Without the proper toothbrush care, the plaque and debris your toothbrush has removed from your teeth will continue to sit in the bristles of your toothbrush, making each time you brush your teeth a little pointless. Toothbrushes become contaminated by several different things: bacteria, saliva, oral debris, blood and toothpaste. Because of this, dentists recommend you rinse your toothbrush thoroughly with tap water after you use it, allow it to air dry and store it in an upright position. While this won’t get rid of all of the bacteria, it will help remove some of it and make it safe for you to use for a time.
Some other key steps to taking care of your toothbrush include:
1. Replacing your toothbrush
Make sure you replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner than that if you notice the bristles are worn and splayed. The more worn the bristles on your toothbrush are, the less effective that toothbrush will be. And of course, if you have been sick with a cold or flu or other infection, toss your toothbrush and get another one immediately. It will only help you get better faster! And as you’re searching for a new toothbrush, make sure you are choosing the right kind. See How to Choose a Toothbrush for some helpful tips on making the right choice.
2. Don’t store in closed containers
Closing your toothbrush in a travel tube on a regular basis is actually discouraged. It’s fine for a short trip and getting it from place to place, but don’t keep it there long term. Being in this humid environment can increase bacterial growth on your toothbrush, taking all of the bacteria and putting it in your mouth when it comes time to brush your teeth.
3. Some methods of cleaning your toothbrush do more harm than good
Do not use dishwashers, ultraviolet devices or microwaves to disinfect your toothbrush. Also, do not soak your toothbrush in disinfecting solutions or mouthwash. This may lead to cross-contamination if you use the same disinfectant over time or with multiple toothbrushes.
4. Regular placement
If you store your toothbrush in the same container as a roommate or spouse or sibling, do not allow them to touch each other as this will just spread the bacteria from one toothbrush to the other. Additionally, do not store your toothbrush near a toilet for the sake of germs spreading from one to the other. Keep your toothbrush in a clean, well-ventilated spot. You’ll also want to make sure you dry your toothbrush between uses. Just like with the closed container, if you keep your toothbrush in a moist space, you will cultivate germs. Try shaking out your toothbrush to accelerate the drying process.
Emiliano Horcada / Flickr / CC BY
5. No more sharing your toothbrush
Your toothbrush should have one owner and that owner is you! If you share your toothbrush, even with a significant other, you are increasing your risk of infection by sharing that bacteria.
6. Use caution against cleaning products
Miracle products that say they can sanitize your toothbrush are becoming more and more popular. The American Dental Association believes there is no evidence that these products actually work or benefit your health. They encourage all consumers who have been approached about buying these products to be wary.