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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