Exactly What’s on Your Toothbrush?

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.

Happy brushing!


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.