Many of us think that our toothbrush is completely sanitary, given that we use it twice a day to clean our teeth.
But it may come as a surprise to know that your toothbrush can easily harbor harmful bacteria that cause gum disease, jaw pain, and even make you sick without proper care.
If you’re curious about what you can do to care for your toothbrush, these are the most important things to remember.
1. Wash Your Hands Before You Brush
Most of us don’t think about washing our hands before we floss and brush our teeth or touch the mouth for any reason. To be fair, awareness of this critical oral hygiene step is rare.
However, washing your hands before brushing and flossing your teeth can provide significant protection against both viral and bacterial infections.
Invasive pathogens like a virus feature fatty outer protective layers made of oil, which soap and warm water quickly destroy. For this reason, properly washing your hands reduces the likelihood that you’ll unintentionally contract an illness while you’re brushing and flossing your teeth.
2. Don’t Share It With Others
Sometimes, it doesn’t seem like a big deal to share your toothbrush with someone you know.
Particularly if they are a close friend, family member, or travel companion who forgot their toothbrush and just need to borrow yours for one day, the risk can feel pretty minimal.
But that isn’t the case.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our toothbrushes aren’t as clean as we think they are. While they might appear to be clean after brushing and a thorough rinse, contaminants like bacteria, blood, tiny food particles, and viruses that cause colds are left behind.
3. Rinse It Before and After Use
It’s difficult to imagine that a tool you use to clean your teeth could be contaminated in any way, but it is.
The unappealing truth is that those invisible particles of food, plaque debris, and pathogens like viruses linger on your toothbrush if you don’t sanitize it correctly.
Luckily, there’s an easy solution.
Give your toothbrush a complete rinse with hot water both before and after using it. This action rinses away gross debris and contaminants that could make you sick, in addition to killing harmful bacteria.
4. Clean It Frequently
Your toothbrush isn’t actually sanitized when you brush your teeth.
Brushing with a quality fluoride toothpaste indeed cleans food particles and tartar from your teeth. Still, those unpleasant types of debris remain on your toothbrush and welcome the growth of harmful bacteria.
So, what’s the best way to keep your toothbrush clean? Sanitize it regularly (preferably daily).
You can clean your toothbrush a couple of ways:
- Cleanse with Gentle Soap and Rinse Thoroughly
- Wash with Antimicrobial Mouthwash
5. Don’t Try to Disinfect It
It’s best to gently clean your toothbrush regularly instead of attempting to disinfect it, as many touted methods can potentially damage your toothbrush or be harmful to your health.
Never try to disinfect your toothbrush using these or other possibly dangerous methods:
- UV Lights
- Household Chemicals
- First Aid Disinfectants
If you believe your toothbrush is contaminated with pathogens or you’ve already attempted one of the aforementioned disinfecting techniques, discard and replace it immediately.
6. Let It Breathe
Did you know that storing your toothbrush incorrectly can promote bacterial growth, leading to tooth decay, gum disease, and illness?
It’s true. Many of the most common mistakes are made despite good intentions, such as:
- Using a Toothbrush Head Cover
- Using a Toothbrush Storage Case
- Storing a Toothbrush Laying Flat
- Storing a Toothbrush in a Medicine Cabinet
Although these storage strategies seem safe, they don’t provide sufficient ventilation for your toothbrush to properly dry and keep the proliferation of harmful bacteria at bay.
To help prevent bacterial growth, store your toothbrush upright in an open, well-ventilated area where it won’t be touching items belonging to guests or other members of your household.
7. Replace It On Time
It doesn’t matter how well you care for your toothbrush or attempt to keep it clean if it’s past its prime.
First, a worn-out toothbrush is less effective in removing plaque and debris.
But there’s another factor that should cause concern: over time, your toothbrush continues to harbor bacteria that just can’t be cleaned away and may eventually cause oral health problems.
Ideally, you should replace your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every three months. However, you should replace it before the three-month mark if you notice signs of wear like fading, frayed bristles, or a foul odor that doesn’t go away with proper cleaning.
If you haven’t been aware of the best ways to care for your toothbrush, it’s not too late to start today.
Follow these simple tips for keeping your toothbrush clean, and you’ll be more likely to avoid the illnesses and dental problems associated with improper toothbrush care.