It’s easy to think that using your toothbrush is enough to keep it clean (after all, it cleans your teeth), but dirty toothbrushes are more common than you’d think. If you’re keeping your toothbrush in a cup by your sink, or you’re using a brush for longer than recommended, you may be setting yourself up for a long day at the doctor’s office. Here’s how to keep your toothbrush clean:
Store it Alone
Whatever you do, don’t store your toothbrush somewhere where it’s touching other toothbrushes, or other things in your bathroom. That’s a recipe for catching every cold and stomach flu that passes through your house.
Toothpaste isn’t antibacterial in the “cold and flu” sense. It’s great for fighting oral bacteria, but it’s powerless against the things that make most people sick. That means that every time you put it in your mouth, you’re coating it with a mixture of whatever your immune system is dealing with at that moment, and the same goes for every other toothbrush in your house.
By storing your toothbrush upright and separate from other brushes and tools, and by washing the brush and the thing you store it in at least once a week, you’ll keep your brush fresh and clean.
Keep it Away From Your Toilet
You should be worried about more than dropping your toothbrush in an uncomfortable place; research has found that toilets produce “bioaerosol” when they’re flushed, coating your bathroom surfaces in a variety of biological materials and bacteria. If you store your toothbrush near your toilet, that bioaerosol will coat it, too.
Store your toothbrush at least two feet away from your toilet. If you can, store it in a place that isn’t exposed to the bioaerosol created by your toilet. There isn’t a strong link between bioaerosols and the spread of common diseases, but it’s best to be safe.
Replace it Frequently
Toothbrushes should be replaced every four months, on average, and immediately after someone is sick. Soaking your toothbrush in mouthwash isn’t enough to remove bacteria; it can actually cause cross contamination when people share or reuse that mouthwash to clean their toothbrushes.
Don’t share your toothbrush. Don’t store it in a damp place (or use a toothbrush head cover). Don’t use it for things other than brushing your teeth. Wash your hands before you brush your teeth.
Toothbrushes are, in the overall scheme of oral health, incredibly affordable. Most of the risks surrounding disease transmission through toothbrushes are a result of negligence, not extenuating factors. As long as you stay on top of keeping your brush clean and avoid the obvious risks, you’ll be fine.
And if you’re worried, just replace it.
Dr. Halsema, or any of her hygienists, are happy to answer any questions.