Toothbrush Care, Cleaning and Replacement

Proper toothbrush care is important to your oral health. Because a worn toothbrush is less effective in cleaning, the American Dental Association recommends replacing your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if the bristles become frayed. Children's toothbrushes often need to be replaced more frequently.

You may have heard talk about bacterial contamination of toothbrushes and wondered if it is cause for concern. The mouth harbors hundreds of different types of microorganisms, some of which are transferred to a toothbrush during use. Microorganisms in the environment also may become established on a stored toothbrush.

Although studies have shown that various microorganisms can grow on toothbrushes after use, evidence is lacking that bacterial growth on toothbrushes will lead to specific health problems.

There is no clinical evidence that soaking a toothbrush in an antibacterial mouthrinse or using a commercially available toothbrush sanitizer has any positive or negative effect on health. Some cleaning methods, including use of a dishwasher or microwave oven, could damage the brush.

Here are some common-sense things you can do:

  • don't share toothbrushes;
  • thoroughly rinse the toothbrush with tap water after use to remove any toothpaste and debris;
  • store the toothbrush in an upright position if possible and allow it to air-dry;
  • when storing more than one brush, keep them separated so that germs are not transferred from one brush to another.

Don't routinely cover or store toothbrushes in closed containers. A moist environment helps the growth of most germs.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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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  • Fluoride rinses – these rinses coat the teeth with fluoride to strengthen teeth to prevent tooth decay and cavities. They also freshen breath.