When you reach for your toothbrush each morning, you may give much thought to how clean the toothbrush is. After all, you wet it each time you use, so how “unclean” can it be? The fact is, each time you put your toothbrush in your mouth, it becomes contaminated with oral microbial organisms. The bacteria and viruses from your mouth can survive on the surface of your toothbrush for several weeks, which will cause illness or extend an illness. Even the normal and healthy microorganisms can lead to an infection, especially if they find their way into your gums through an injury, such as an ulcer or scratch on the gums. The best way to prevent the risk of an infection is to clean and replace your toothbrush regularly.
How to Care For Your Toothbrush
One of the most important things you should do is let the toothbrush dry out between uses. Your toothbrush is a breeding ground for fungus, germs, and bacteria that love moist conditions. After each use, thoroughly rinse the toothbrush under running water, tap it or shake out as much water as possible and store it in an upright position to allow it to air out. If you or anyone in your home has a cold or a flu virus, to prevent the virus from being passed between the toothbrushes, they should be stored in separate areas.
How Often Should You Replace Your Toothbrush?
The American Dental Association recommends you change your toothbrush every three months unless it becomes frayed before then. Studies have shown that after about three months of normal use, a toothbrush is less effective at removing the plaque from your teeth and gums. Toothbrush bristles break down and become less effective at getting between your teeth. It is important to replace your toothbrush after you had the flu, a cold, sore throat or a mouth infection. Germs can continue to hide the bristles of your toothbrush, which can cause reinfection.
General Toothbrush Care
Some tips for general toothbrush care include:
- You should never share toothbrushes. When you share a toothbrush, you are sharing microorganisms and/or body fluids between the toothbrush users, which place each person at the risk of infection.
- Always rinse the toothbrush after brushing to remove any debris and toothpaste.
- Store the toothbrush in an upright position and allow to air-dry.
- If storing more than one toothbrush in the same holder, keep the toothbrushes separated to prevent the risk of cross-contamination.
- Toothbrushes should not routinely be covered or stored in a closed container. Moist environments, such as a toothbrush cover or container contributes to the growth of microorganisms.
- Soaking or rinsing your toothbrush with an antibacterial mouthwash may help to decrease the growth of bacteria.
If you use an electric toothbrush, it is important to practice safe use with the head of the electric toothbrush. Replace the head every three months or sooner if it begins to fray. If you’re not sure which type of toothbrush is best suited for your oral hygiene needs, talk with your dentist for recommendations.