The Dirty Truth About Your Toothbrush

Grabbing your toothbrush first thing in the morning is a ritual you share with millions of others around the world. Brushing your teeth properly is necessary for good dental hygiene and clean breath. But before you start brushing, learn about what may be lurking on your toothbrush bristles.

What’s on Your Bristles?

Unfortunately, each time you put your toothbrush in your mouth, you may be contaminating it with microbial organisms. Bacteria and viruses are found in your mouth and, when you’re infected, you pass the germs from your mouth onto your toothbrush surface. A virus or bacteria strain can live on your toothbrush for weeks and continue to make you ill if you’re using it to brush your teeth.

Normal, healthy organisms on your toothbrush can even cause problems if they’re able to enter your gums because of an opening, such as an oral ulcer.

You may even have a problem right out of the box: According to the American Dental Association, a toothbrush doesn’t have to be sold in sterile packing, so it may have bacteria on it when you buy it.

What You Can Do

Wetting your toothbrush each time you use it isn’t enough to keep it clean. Try the three simple steps below to help keep your bristles germ free:

  1. Try washing: Thoroughly rinse your toothbrush with water to get rid of debris from your mouth and residual toothpaste. Use a dishwasher or soak it in antibacterial mouthwash if you have an immune disorder or other systemic illness that makes you more vulnerable to infection.
  2. Deep clean: Consider a toothbrush sanitizer device to kill viruses and bacteria. There are many different types available, with some that use ultraviolet light to kill germs.
  3. Properly store it: Keep your toothbrush upright in a cup or rack that has a cover with an opening to allow air circulation so it can dry properly. Don’t seal the toothbrush in, as a lack of air helps bacteria grow.

Don’t Be Afraid to Say Goodbye

Toothbrushes don’t last forever. Replace your toothbrush at least every three to four months even if it appears to be in good condition. Get a new toothbrush sooner if the one you are currently using looks worn, as damaged bristles won’t do the job properly. Make sure you replace your toothbrush after you’ve had an illness to prevent reinfection.

For electric brushes, you’ll need to replace the bristle head attachment as necessary and if you’ve been sick. Make sure to clean the brush area around where the head attaches as well.

Finally, never share your toothbrush with someone else, even your close family members. If they’re sick, you may become sick, too. Plus, transferred saliva and bacteria from a shared toothbrush can contribute to tooth decay.

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Alin Alkass: How Safe Are Dental X-Rays?

Dental X-rays emit a very low level of radiation, and are considered to be safe. Dr. Alin Alkass notes that there is always some risk where radiation is concerned, even at low levels. However, because X-rays enable early detection of gum disease, tooth decay and other serious dental health issues, the benefit is considered to outweigh any potential harm. Digital X-rays, which Dr. Alkass uses, emit even less radiation and much more clarity and resolution than traditional X-rays.  Most dental offices use a lead apron to protect the abdomen and chest from exposure, and some offer leaded thyroid covers as well. Let your dentist know if you are pregnant: Some practitioners won’t X-ray pregnant women if there’s no urgent need.

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Is a Pediatric Dentist or Regular Dentist Best for Your Child?

The decision on whether to choose a pediatric or general dentist for your child depends very much on the specific dentist and your specific child. Dr. Alin Alkass notes that pediatric dental practices are set up to entertain and comfort children, so this option may be best for shy or fearful children. However, many general dentists are great with kids and have the equipment and experience necessary to treat kids. If your dentist fits the bill, consider taking your child to that practice rather than searching for a separate pediatric dentist.

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Alin Alkass: Best Toothbrush Bristles for a Total Clean

Most dentists, including Dr. Alin Alkass, agree that the type of toothbrush used matters less than whether it’s used consistently and properly. That said, there are several different bristle choices, and it can be helpful to know which are best for your needs. Dr. Alkass recommends that most patients choose soft bristles because hard-bristle and even some medium-bristle options can damage or wear away enamel—and even damage gums if used too vigorously.

Bristle length and angles are largely a matter of preference. Choose the one that makes the brushing experience most comfortable and pleasant for you.

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First Dentist Visit for Young Children: What to Expect

On the first visit, the dentist will mainly work to get to know your child. Dr. Alin Alkass explains that the dentist will gently examine your child’s mouth to check the development of her teeth and ensure that her bite is aligned. He’ll ask you questions about behaviors related to dental issues, such as thumb sucking, and he’ll give you advice on how to care for your child’s teeth. After the first visit, he will likely want to see your child every six months to build up her comfort level and ensure that her teeth are growing in properly.

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Dr. Alin Alkass on the Importance of Fluoride

Tooth enamel needs to be strengthened and protected. Fluoride is essential for keeping teeth healthy and strong, as it builds enamel’s resistance to acids and bacteria, and reverses early tooth decay. Fluoride is found in tap water, some foods, and in dental care products. Anyone can benefit from fluoride. However, Dr. Alin Alkass suggests that those who are between 6 months and 16 years of age, those who suffer from dry mouth, those who are elderly, and those who drink only bottled water visit a dentist to find out whether they need additional fluoride treatments.

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Dr. Alin Alkass on Encouraging Children to Brush

Brushing is essential to children’s oral hygiene, and developing good brushing habits is important to their future dental health. However, it can be difficult for young children (and even some older ones) to sit still and brush for the two-minute time frame most dentists recommend. To encourage children to brush properly, Dr. Alin Alkass suggests brushing with them until you’re certain they know the proper technique, then giving them incentives for showing good brushing habits on their own. They can brush for the length of their favorite song or during a commercial break, and they can be given rewards such as extra computer time, money, or small toys when they brush properly for an extended period of time.

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Manual or Electric Toothbrushes? Dr. Alin Alkass Weighs In

The numerous toothbrush options available can make choosing difficult. The first difficult choice to make is whether to use a manual or electric model. At first glance, more expensive electronic models may seem too expensive, intimidating and awkward. However, that’s not necessarily the case. Dr. Alin Alkass notes that electronic toothbrushes have been proven to be much more effective than manual varieties according to current research studies. Toothbrush effectiveness dramatically increases when a patient switches to an electric brush.  The power and speed of an electric motor is able to remove more plaque with less effort and time.  So, brush regularly and thoroughly, but consider spending your money wisely by choosing an electric toothbrush.  Soon you’ll be on your way to good oral health!

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Dr. Alin Alkass on Protecting Tooth Enamel

Tooth enamel is actually harder and more durable than bone. However, it can wear away over time, and once it’s gone, it doesn’t come back. To protect your dental enamel, Dr. Alin Alkass suggests ensuring that your teeth are getting adequate exposure to fluoride, avoiding excessive amounts of acidic foods and drinks, and seeing your dentist for treatment of dry mouth, if you have it. In addition, to avoid scratching or scraping your tooth enamel, avoid brushing your teeth excessively, aggressively, or just after eating acidic foods.

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Dr. Alin Alkass Beautifies the Chicagoland One Smile at a Time

Dr. Alin Alkass, a native of Illinois, believes the best way to beautify our world is with smiles. From his younger days in school to his current work in his private dental practice, he has worked to help others feel comfortable smiling. On days out of the office, he enjoys watching the smiles on the faces of his wife and children, and more than once his own smile has broadened as he has watched the Chicago Bears fight their way to victory.


Dr. Alin Alkass began his higher education with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois Chicago. He then continued his education by earning a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from New York University College of Dentistry. Today, he maintains professional relevance by participating in continuing education opportunities as often as possible as well as retaining membership in professional societies including the American Dental Association, Illinois State Dental Society, the Chicago Dental Society and the Academy of General Dentistry.

Professional Expertise

Dr. Alin Alkass is particularly skilled as a gentle dentist, especially in work with children as well as adults with fear of dentists. Additionally, Dr. Alkass is skilled in the advanced use of digital technology; periodontal maintenance or gum care; tooth nerve therapy otherwise known as root canals; basic dental repair and placement of fillings, crowns and bridges; all types of extractions and more. This skill and his chair-side manner regularly bring compliments from patients. One patient commented, “Dr. Alkass did a wonderful job of explaining the process each step of the way and is instrumental to modifying my habits for better dental health.”

Dr. Alin Alkass is a different kind of dentist. Warm, patient and caring, he takes the time to listen and then provide you with the best care possible. He is also well-regarded by his patients for his thoroughness. Rather than being rushed, he believes in personal quality over quantity and is complimented for his light, gentle touch.

Personal Life

Away from the office, Dr. Alin Alkass enjoys spending time with his family. As a sports enthusiast, he finds the biggest smiles coming to his face when the Chicago Bears are winning. He also enjoys giving to others by donating to charities such as the Red Cross and the American Cancer Society.

Smiles are more becoming than frowns, but many people find it embarrassing to flash a toothy grin. Dr. Alkass works to increase the number of people who enjoy grinning from ear to ear.

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