Good toothbrush care is essential for clean, white, healthy teeth and an attractive smile. An old, frayed toothbrush doesn’t brush your teeth effectively. If stored incorrectly, your toothbrush can introduce harmful bacteria to your mouth. Changing your toothbrush regularly before it wears out and allowing it to dry between uses are the keys to proper care for this important health care item.
Modern toothbrushes are designed to be cleaned and reused for several weeks until they begin to show signs of wear. Toothbrushes might seem to be modern invention, but they’ve been around as long as 5000 years, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
Twigs, bone, wood, ivory and bristles from hogs, boars and other animals have been used to make toothbrushes, but the nylon toothbrushes we use today were invented in 1938. Rinsing and air drying after use are all that is needed to keep a nylon toothbrush fresh and clean.
As well as being unpleasant to use, a dirty toothbrush harbors germs that may be harmful. The ADA explained that though it isn’t clear whether bacterial growth on toothbrushes can lead to oral or bodily health problems, it makes sense to take precautions, especially when it comes to bacteria and viruses passing from one toothbrush to another.
Some infections are transmitted through saliva or blood, and any family members with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable.
Toothbrush Care Do’s and Don’ts
- Replace your toothbrush when the bristles fray or bend, or at least every three to four months. The ADA advised parents to replace children’s toothbrushes more frequently.
- Rinse your toothbrush after brushing and stand it upright to air dry. Many bacteria can’t survive on dry bristles.
- When going on vacation, allow time for your toothbrush to dry before packing it, or buy a new one for your trip.
- Store your toothbrush well away from your toilet to avoid contamination from airborne germs.
- Buy two toothbrushes at a time so you can swap out the old one when it’s time, without delay.
- Store your toothbrush in a container, where bacteria can breed in the trapped moisture.
- Share your toothbrush with others or allow toothbrushes to touch.
- Soak your toothbrush in mouthwash or disinfectant. Air-drying is just as effective and doesn’t introduce chemicals to your mouth that you may swallow.
- Put your toothbrush in a dishwasher or microwave. The damage that can result may make the toothbrush less effective at cleaning.
Toothbrush Sanitizers and Misleading Claims
Commercial toothbrush sanitizers are available to buy, but there are no known health benefits to using one, according to the ADA. If you’d prefer to use a toothbrush sanitizer, the ADA recommended buying a brand cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The ADA further advised that if a product claims to sanitize toothbrushes, this means it reduces bacteria by 99.9%. A more reasonable claims would be that the santizer reduces bacteria or sanitizes toothbrushes. Claims that the product sterilizes toothbrushes are likely untrue or misleading.
With only two steps — rinsing and air-drying – required to keep your toothbrush clean and fresh, toothbrush hygiene couldn’t be simpler. Remember to also buy a new brush every three or four months or when the bristles show signs of wear, and you’ll have your toothbrush care bases covered. You can brush your teeth with confidence.