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The Ugly Truth about your Toothbrush

The Ugly Truth about your Toothbrush

Did you know that a plethora of bacteria, fungi and viruses can live quite happily in your toothbrush? In fact, scientists have found more than 100 million microbes—including E.coli, staphylococci, streptococcus, herpes simplex virus, influenza virus and even fecal germs1—living in a single toothbrush. Toothbrushes may even have bacteria on them right out of the box since they are not required to be sold in a sterile package2.

There is no need to panic, however, as our bodies, especially our mouths, are regularly full of bacteria. Our own immune system can normally handle the microbial invaders and defend itself. Most of these germs already exist in your mouth, so you probably won’t get sick from them.

Studies have shown that various microorganisms can grow on toothbrushes, yet there is insufficient clinical evidence to support that bacterial growth on toothbrushes will lead to specific adverse oral or systemic health effects2.

Still, it is important to keep your toothbrush clean. Here are some general recommendations for toothbrush care according to the American Dental Association and the Council on Scientific Affairs.

Proper Toothbrush Care

Replace your toothbrush (including electric toothbrush heads) every 3-4months or sooner if the bristles become frayed with use, if you are sick, or if you have a weakened immune system

Children’s toothbrushes may need to be replaced more often than adult brushes

Do not share toothbrushes

Germs can spread

Keep toothbrushes separate

Cross-contamination can occur

Thoroughly rinse toothbrushes with tap water after brushing to remove any remaining toothpaste and debris

Allow your toothbrush to dry thoroughly between brushings

Do not routinely cover toothbrushes or store them in closed containers

A moist environment is more conducive to the growth of microorganisms

Keep your toothbrush upright, rather than lying it down

Don’t brush where you flush

Keep your toothbrush as far away from the toilet as possible, and always close the toilet lid before flushing

If you have a toothbrush holder, make sure you clean it regularly

There is no current evidence that using any sanitizers—UV light, spray or rinses—or antibacterial mouth rinse has any positive or negative effect on oral or systemic health. If you choose to use one, please choose a product cleared by the FDA. There is some evidence that soaking your toothbrush in a bacterial mouth rinse after use may reduce the amount of bacteria on your toothbrush. Do not use a microwave or a dishwasher as most toothbrushes will be damaged.

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