Did you know that your mouth is home to at least six billion bacteria, including hundreds of species? This number may be surprising, but according to an article in Frontiers in Microbiology, it's true. And because you use your toothbrush two to three times a day to remove harmful bacteria from your teeth, it's also a haven for bacteria. That's why it's important to know how to clean your toothbrush and where to store it to keep it as sanitary and germ-free as possible.
Where to Store Your Toothbrush
Bacteria like to grow in dark, moist areas, so never put your toothbrush in a closed container. Instead, store it in an upright position and keep it uncovered to allow it to air dry. If you'd like, you can cover your toothbrush once it's dry. (Keep this protocol in mind when traveling!)
Because illnesses can spread from one family member to another via toothbrush, avoid storing your toothbrush beside another family member's brush, and color-code brushes to ensure everyone uses their own.
If your toothbrush is stored too close to the toilet, it can become contaminated with airborne fecal bacteria when the toilet is flushed, according to the American Society for Microbiology. When you share a bathroom with multiple people, your brush could become infected with parasites, bacteria, or viruses from someone else. These particular germs may be harmful to you because they're not a part of your normal bacterial makeup. So, store your brush as far away from the toilet as possible.
How to Clean Your Toothbrush
In a Cleveland Clinic article, Karyn Kahn DDS explains that, while you don't want bacteria building up around your teeth and gums, everyone needs some level of bacteria in their mouth to keep yeast and fungal infections from developing. And according to the American Dental Association (ADA), the normal bacteria found on a toothbrush won't adversely affect your oral health.
However, while your toothbrush doesn't need to be sterile, it's important to clean your toothbrush and store it properly to limit bacteria from outside sources. Here are some ideas from the Maryland Children's Oral Health Institute (MYCOHI) to help keep your brush fresh and clean until you're ready for a new one:
• Clean your toothbrush cover and holder frequently with disinfectant wipes or soap and warm water.
• Wash your hands before and after brushing to reduce the transfer of microorganisms to yourself and others.
• Wash your toothbrush before and after brushing with warm water, rubbing your thumb across the bristles to dislodge any food particles and dried toothpaste. Then, rinse under cold water to help the bristles regain their firmness.
• For extra cleaning power, soak the bristle end of your brush in an antiseptic mouthwash for 30 seconds or swish your brush in a solution of two teaspoons of baking soda (or one teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide) in one cup of water.
• Soak your toothbrush in white vinegar overnight.
The ADA warns against putting your toothbrush in the microwave or dishwasher since the heat will destroy the bristles. If you use a sanitizing solution, make sure it's approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
When to Replace Your Toothbrush
If your toothbrush has frayed or matted bristles, the ADA suggests discarding your old brush (or recycle that toothbrush, if you can!) and getting a new one. Although the recommended timeframe for toothbrush replacement is every three to four months, don't hesitate to trade in a shabby-looking toothbrush for a new one regardless of its age. Worn brushes don't clean well, and bent, out-of-shape bristles can damage tooth enamel. The ADA recommends using a soft-bristle brush, but this type of brush will wear out faster than a medium- or hard-bristle brush.
The MYCOHI suggests replacing your toothbrush when you become sick with a cold, flu, or stomach virus, and then replacing it again after you recover. It's important to note that viruses can live on toothbrushes for a significant amount of time. If you're taking an antibiotic, consider replacing your brush after you no longer have symptoms but before you've finished the course of antibiotics to help prevent reinfection.
A sanitary toothbrush that's in tip-top shape does a better job of cleaning your teeth, which gives you an added advantage when it comes to your dental and overall health. Take a good look at your family's brushes and make sure they pass the test.
For more ideas on how to optimize your brushing routine, explore these DIY toothpaste tube squeezer craft ideas.
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Why It's Good
Toothbrushes can be a source of bacteria and other microorganisms. That's why it's important to know how to clean your toothbrush and store it properly, as well as when it's time to replace an old, worn brush.