Brushing to keep your teeth, gums and tongue healthy and clean is a given for good oral and overall health.
But giving your toothbrush some tender loving care is also important.
"The oral cavity is home to hundreds of different types of microorganisms, which can be transferred to a toothbrush during use," said Dr. Maria L. Geisinger, assistant professor of periodontology in the School of Dentistry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The ADA and its Council on Scientific Affairs offer several recommendations for taking care of your toothbrush:
- Do not share toothbrushes. Sharing a toothbrush could result in an exchange of body fluids and/or microorganisms between the users, placing them at an increased risk for infections. This practice could be a particular concern for persons with compromised immune systems or existing infectious diseases.
- Thoroughly rinse toothbrushes with tap water after brushing to remove any remaining toothpaste and debris. Store the brush in an upright position if possible and allow the toothbrush to air-dry until used again. If more than one brush is stored in the same holder or area, keep the brushes separated to prevent cross-contamination.
- Do not routinely cover toothbrushes or store them in closed containers. A moist environment such as a closed container is more conducive to the growth of microorganisms than the open air.
- Replace toothbrushes at least every three to four months. The bristles become frayed and worn with use and cleaning effectiveness will decrease. And some people's toothbrushes can wear out more rapidly. Check brushes often for wear and replace them more frequently if needed. Children's toothbrushes often need replacing more frequently than adult brushes.
The ADA also recommends choosing a toothbrush with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. When you see the ADA Seal on a package, you can be sure the product inside has been scientifically evaluated to be safe and effective.
There is no evidence that the bacteria on toothbrushes can cause diseases, but people with a compromised immune system or low resistance to infection because of chemotherapy, radiation or other health issues might consider replacing their toothbrushes more often, rinsing with an antibacterial mouthrinse before brushing or soaking their toothbrushes in an antibacterial mouthrinse.
Ask your dentist for toothbrush care advice if you are at a higher than average risk for infection because of other health issues. For more toothbrush tips, visit MouthHealthy.org, the ADA's consumer website.© American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.