Do I Need a Toothbrush Sanitizer?

With the holidays just around the corner, many people are planning trips back to their hometown and other exciting destinations. With the multitude of germs found in airports and other high-traffic public areas, you're probably aware of the risk of touching unclean surfaces. There is little evidence to suggest a toothbrush sanitizer can make a significant difference in the quality of your oral hygiene regimen, but here are some tips to help you keep your oral care routine as germ-free as possible.

The Risks of Oral Bacteria

Oral bacteria can cause a number of dental health hazards, ranging from the not-so-serious to those that can make you ill. Some of the infections resulting from oral bacteria include gingivitis, periodontal disease, oral thrush, herpes, canker sores and herpangina. Since 50 to 80 percent of American adults carry oral herpes, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center, preventing the bacteria from entering your mouth is essential if you want to remain free of the disease. It's also helpful to use anti-microbial toothpastes and mouthwashes.

How a Toothbrush Sanitizer Works

A significant difference exists between the ability to sanitize or disinfect a toothbrush versus the ability to sterilize it, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A sanitizer is not able to actually sterilize a toothbrush, so you can't be certain it is completely bacteria-free; however, sanitizing can give you peace of mind and raise your awareness of the care and cleaning of your equipment.

Toothbrush sanitizers typically function in one of two ways to kill bacteria. The first method uses steam and dry heat to cleanse the toothbrush, leaving it dry enough to avoid creating a breeding ground for bacteria. The second method consists of battery-operated sanitizing equipment that generate an ultraviolet light, and the light kills the bacteria.

Keeping Your Toothbrush Clean On the Go

The American Dental Association is skeptical of the benefits of a toothbrush sanitizer and concludes this step may be unnecessary. Keep your toothbrush clean during your travels by following these care options that apply at home as well:

  • Wash your hands before brushing or flossing to avoid transferring the bacteria on your hands to your toothbrush.
  • Rinse the toothbrush thoroughly after use. This removes all toothpaste residue and loose debris in which bacteria may shelter.
  • Store your toothbrush in an upright position so it can dry quickly, located away from the toilet bowl and sink. This avoids the toothbrush being splashed with water that could contain bacteria from either location.
  • Don't share toothbrushes with anyone, regardless of how well you know him or her. Everyone has different oral bacteria, and you don't want to pass on or share each other's bacteria.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months to avoid using one with frayed and worn bristles.

Keeping your toothbrush clean during your travels doesn't require a toothbrush sanitizer if you follow these steps. Keep brushing and flossing daily with quality oral care products, rinse your toothbrush after each use and replace it several times a year, and you'll be as bacteria-free as any sanitizer can make you.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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How to FLOSS

  1. Pull 18 to 24 inches of dental floss from the floss dispenser.

  2. Wrap the ends of the floss around your index and middle fingers.

  3. Hold the floss tightly around each tooth in a C shape; move the floss back and forth in a push-pull motion and up and down against the side of each tooth.

How to BRUSH

  1. Place the toothbrush at a 45°angle along the gum line. Move the toothbrush in a back and forth motion, and repeat for each tooth.

  2. Brush the inside surface of each tooth, using the same back and forth technique.

  3. Brush the chewing surface (top) of each tooth.

  4. Use tip of brush to brush behind each tooth — front and back, top and bottom and up and down strokes.

  5. Be sure to brush your tongue to remove odor-causing bacteria.