If you're like most people, the toothbrush you use every night to keep your mouth clean may not be clean itself. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, "Limited research has suggested that even after being visibly rinsed clean, toothbrushes can remain contaminated with potentially pathogenic organisms. Luckily, with proper cleaning and storage habits, your worries about keeping a clean toothbrush can be "brushed" aside.
Do not store your toothbrush in a closed container at home. The greater moisture in a closed container creates a good environment for the growth of bacteria.
Keep your toothbrush in a container when you travel to avoid it picking up dirt or bacteria. Be sure your toothbrush is dry before putting it in the protector or case.
Also, be sure to clean your toothbrush protector regularly. Chlorhexidine (found in mouthwash) is the best antibacterial substance to clean the container.
Store your toothbrush upright. This allows water
to drain from the bristles. It also keeps them away from bacteria that grows in even trace amounts of water. If you store your toothbrush in a container like a cup, you may have noticed that scum collects at the bottom. If you store your toothbrush on its side or with the brush facing down, it will be lying in that scum.Store your toothbrush at least 2 feet (0.61 m) from the toilet. When you flush, tiny water particles containing fecal matter escape the toilet and may land on your toothbrush if it is too close to the toilet. While there is insufficient evidence that these trace amounts of bacteria cause illness, it is best to be safe.
Clean your toothbrush holder once a week. Bacteria that accumulates on the toothbrush holder can be transmitted to the brush, and then to your mouth. It is particularly important to clean your holder regularly if it has a closed bottom, like a cup.
Wash your toothbrush holder or cup with soap and water. Do not run it through the dishwasher unless it says it's dishwasher-safe. Never put your toothbrush itself in the dishwasher.
Do not let toothbrushes come into contact with one another. If you are storing multiple toothbrushes in one container, make sure they do not touch, as this will allow for the transfer
of bacteria and bodily fluids from one brush to another.
Do not share toothbrushes. If you share a toothbrush, you are also sharing bodily fluids and germs, which might lead to an infection.
Wash your hands before handling your toothbrush. It seems rather obvious, but all too often people reach straight for the toothpaste tube before washing their hands.
Wash your toothbrush after every use. Rinse the brush with hot tap water after brushing your teeth. Make sure you remove all toothpaste and debris.
Shake your toothbrush dry after washing. The wetter
your toothbrush, the more welcoming an environment it will be for bacteria.
Do not soak your toothbrush in mouthwash or a disinfecting solution. According to the American Dental Association, there is no clinical evidence that soaking your toothbrush in antibacterial mouthwash has any effect on your oral health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adds that soaking your toothbrush could lead to cross-contamination if you use the same disinfectant over a period of time, or share disinfectant between users.
Replace your toothbrush every three to four months. If it is electric, replace the head every three to four months. Do so sooner if you notice the bristles are bent or fraying, or if colored bristles are fading.
Kids' toothbrushes may need to be replaced more often than adult toothbrushes, as children have often not learned how to best care for their teeth and may press too hard.
PartTake extra precautions if someone in your home is sick. Throw away their toothbrush and any other brushes it came into contact with to prevent
the sickness from spreading.
Soaking your toothbrush in antibacterial mouthwash for ten minutes after your illness ends may kill germs that might cause a return of the illness; however, it is a better idea to simply
replace the toothbrush.
Take extra precautions if you have a compromised immune system or are particularly susceptible to illness. Even trace amounts of bacteria can be dangerous for those with compromised immune systems, so keeping your toothbrush disinfected is advisable.
Use an antibacterial mouthwash before you brush your teeth. This may help reduce the amount of bacteria that gets onto your toothbrush when brushing.
Rinse the toothbrush with antibacterial mouthrinse before brushing. This may reduce the amount of bacteria deposited on the toothbrush.
Replace your toothbrush more frequently than every three to four months. This may help reduce your exposure to bacteria over time.
Consider a toothbrush sanitizer. While studies do not show any particular benefit to these devices, you can purchase one that has been cleared by the FDA. Toothbrush sanitizers kill up to 99.9% of bacteria on the brush. (Sterilizing means that 100% of bacteria and living organisms have been killed, and no commercial toothbrush cleaner can claim this.)
Take extra precautions if you have braces or other appliances. Studies show that people who are wearing appliances on their teeth collect more germs on their toothbrushes. Rinse with antibacterial mouthrinse before brushing to reduce the amount of bacteria deposited on the toothbrush.
If you have braces, you may also find it helpful to also use a water flosser or waterpik to clean between your braces and your teeth.