Toothbrushes are designed to keep our mouths clean. But in the process, they often get very, very dirty.
That’s the conclusion of the American Dental Association (ADA), which reports that toothbrushes can become contaminated in several ways. For starters, microorganisms in your mouth can stick around on the toothbrush after you’ve brushed. Microorganisms from the environment in which you keep your toothbrush may also find their way onto the bristles. And because there’s no regulation saying that toothbrushes have to be sold in a sterile package (yes, really!), they may be coated in bacteria right out of the box.
Given that we use toothbrushes to improve our oral hygiene—not expose our mouths to even more bacteria—it’s critical to properly care for your toothbrush if you want it to do its job. Keep your mouth and your toothbrush healthy with these four simple tips.
Don’t share toothbrushes with anyone else.
Sure, it makes for a cute scene in romantic movies: The couple gets close enough that they’re even willing to share a toothbrush. But in real life, it’s best to leave the romance out of the toothbrush holder. That’s because sharing a toothbrush with anyone else exposes you to microorganisms with which your body may not be familiar. This, in turn, can put you at a higher risk for infection.
Rinse your toothbrush after (and before) brushing.
Once you’ve wiggled your toothbrush around in your mouth for two minutes, it’s covered in bacteria, tiny bits of food, and other particles. If you don’t take the time to thoroughly rinse these off your toothbrush after brushing, then you’ll simply end up swiping them back into your mouth again the next time you brush. That’s why it’s so important to thoroughly rinse your toothbrush after each use. Some people choose to rinse or soak their toothbrush in an antibacterial mouthwash after using it, which may further reduce the amount of bacteria that sticks around on your brush.
For the same reasons that it’s a good idea to rinse your toothbrush after brushing, it’s also smart to give it a quick rinse before you use it. This way, you can get rid of any debris that may not have been removed during the most recent rinse or that made its way onto the brush between brushings.
Make sure your toothbrush can air dry.
Rinsing out your toothbrush won’t do you much good if you don’t allow it to dry out afterward. That’s because moisture creates a very hospitable condition in which bacteria can grow. Avoid this issue by adhering to the following toothbrush storage tips:
·Store your toothbrush in an upright position in an open container that allows for plenty of ventilation. Do not cover the toothbrush or store it in a closed container over the long-term
·Don’t allow your toothbrush bristles to touch other toothbrushes or the walls of its storage container, as this can prevent drying and enable the transfer of bacteria
·Clean your toothbrush holder once a week to ensure it isn’t becoming a breeding ground for nasty bacteria
Replace your toothbrush a minimum of every three to four months.
The ADA recommends that toothbrushes be kept in use for absolutely no more than three or four months. While this is a good general rule to follow, a few situations might necessitate replacing your brush more frequently:
·If the bristles of your toothbrush appear discolored, frayed, matted, or bent, it’s time to get a new one (no matter how recently you purchased it)
·If you’ve been sick, replace your toothbrush as soon as you’ve recovered from your illness
·If you have a compromised immune system, consider replacing your toothbrush more frequently so as to reduce the amount of bacteria buildup to which you’re exposed
With a little care and attention, your toothbrush can do what it does best: keep your mouth clean to ensure greater oral health.