Kayla Holiday writes for 1Dental.com, which offers discount dental plans nationwide. She enjoys keeping people up to date on dental news and helping them save money on dental care.
A toothbrush is a very important part of any dental hygiene routine. Toothbrushes are key in removing plaque from the surface of your teeth, even in hard to reach areas. However, your toothbrush could also be key in causing illness and stimulating bacterial growth in your mouth, depending on how well you’re taking care of it.
Germs are on every surface. They are always present. Your toothbrush is especially vulnerable to housing germs as it contains both the plaque from your teeth, and it typically rests in the least sanitary room in the house—the bathroom. Airborne germs from the toilet or unwashed hands touching items near your toothbrush could all be factors which assist in a germ-infested toothbrush.
Preventing the Germs
There are many steps you can take to keeping your toothbrush—and your mouth!—germ free.
- Keeping your toothbrush away from the toilet. When you flush, a phenomenon called the “aerosol effect” takes place. This means that as the water is being sucked down, a tiny bit of water is being sprayed upward. This spray can contain many germs and can travel up to six feet! To protect your toothbrush, keep it as far away from the toilet as possible. Also, for extra precaution, close the toilet lid before you flush.
- Don’t share a toothbrush. This may seem like common knowledge, but many people do not understand the importance of not sharing a toothbrush. In fact, the head of your toothbrush should not even touch the head of another toothbrush. Toothbrushes exchange germs very easily, and you probably don’t want somebody else’s plaque in your mouth.
- Let your toothbrush dry after each use. Placing a toothbrush in any sort of cover or case keeps the brush moist, thus encouraging bacterial growth.
- Replace your toothbrush. Dentists and professionals recommend replacing your toothbrush every 3-4 months. Over time, the bristles wear down and this allows more bacteria to build up on it. Many suggest you replace your toothbrush after you’ve been sick, also.
Cleaning Your Toothbrush
Even if you’ve taken all these steps for prevention, some germs may still find their way onto your teeth-scrubbing device. In order to help kill some of these sneaky bacteria, there are different methods of cleaning your toothbrush. The most basic is simply rinsing your toothbrush well after each use. You may even have to scrub it against your finger a few times to make sure all the bacteria are washed off. You can also soak your toothbrush in alcohol or hydrogen peroxide occasionally to kill off germs. In addition, products for cleaning brushes such as toothbrush sanitizers are available for purchase at most drugstores.
Having a clean toothbrush is definitely an important part of having a healthy mouth. However, soaking your toothbrush in alcohol once a week won’t make you the poster child for oral hygiene. It will get you one step closer, but it is important to remember that regularly brushing (with a clean brush, of course!) and flossing, and visiting the dentist twice a year all are equally contributing factors to having a healthy, glowing smile.