Did you know the amount of bacteria in your mouth is close to the total population of the entire earth? Shocking, right? Even more unnerving is that a lot of the bacteria can end up on your toothbrush. Because most people store their toothbrush in the bathroom — a warm, moist environment that contains numerous airborne bacteria — your toothbrush could harbor more bacteria than Horton Hears a Who!
What’s a poor toothbrush to do?
Although studies have shown microorganisms can grow on toothbrushes after use, there is no clinical evidence that soaking a toothbrush in an antibacterial mouth rinse or using a commercially available toothbrush sanitizer has any positive or negative effect on health. There are better ways to rid your toothbrush of those disease-causing bacteria:
- Don’t put dirty hands in your mouth! Wash up before and after brushing or flossing.
- After brushing, don’t be lazy — rinse off the rest of the grimy toothpaste from your brush, and store it upright to air-dry.
- Don't cover your toothbrush or place it in a closed container until it is completely dry; a moist environment can foster bacterial growth.
- Don't share a toothbrush with anyone, no matter how much you love them. While we’re on the subject, don't even store toothbrushes in a way that might cause them to touch.
- Toothbrushes get tired and worn out like the rest of us; replace yours every two to three months.
- Always replace your toothbrush after a cold or other illness; you never know what germs might decide to hang around afterward.
- If you or someone else in your family is sick, that person should use a different tube of toothpaste (try a travel size) just in case the bad bacteria decide to go toothbrush hopping.
- Don’t think that a dishwasher or microwave can make your toothbrush squeaky clean. The cleaning effectiveness of the toothbrush might be decreased if it is damaged.
Germs Quiz: What lives in your mouth?. WebMD.com. The use and handling of toothbrushes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Toothbrush care, cleaning and replacement. American Dental Association. Statement on Toothbrush Care: Cleaning, Storage and Replacement. American Dental Association. Retrieved: September 2012
The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.