Is your toothbrush a germ breeding ground? Toothbrush bristles are coated in water, toothpaste, food debris and mouth bacteria twice a day, and if you've recently had the flu or a cold, yours could also harbor a virus. Disinfecting toothbrush bristles after an illness leaves them clean and fresh and may help prevent germs from spreading to the rest of your family.
To keep your toothbrush in tip-top shape, you should clean it every time you use it. As the American Dental Association (ADA) explains, microorganisms from our mouths and the environment grow on toothbrushes after we use them. Although the jury is out on whether these microorganisms can cause ill health, the ADA's advice on toothbrush care is to remove all toothpaste and food debris after you brush your teeth by rinsing the bristles thoroughly in clean water. When the toothbrush is clean, stand it on its handle end and make sure it's not touching other toothbrushes to allow it to air dry. Don't cover toothbrush bristles in a way that won't allow them to dry out, and don't share toothbrushes. You should also replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or earlier if the bristles are frayed or worn.
Disinfecting Toothbrush Bristles
Going that extra mile and disinfecting toothbrush heads after recovering from a respiratory illness can help get rid of a cold or flu that you don't want to catch again or pass around your family. Dimensions of Dental Hygiene lists a range of options for disinfecting toothbrushes that might be contaminated with flu germs:
Swirl the bristles in antibacterial mouthwash for 30 seconds.
Dissolve 2 teaspoons of baking soda in a cup of water and soak the toothbrush in the solution.
Dilute 1 teaspoon of 3 percent strength hydrogen peroxide in 1 cup of water and swish the toothbrush bristles in the solution before brushing.
Soak the bristles in vinegar overnight once per week.
Dissolve a denture cleansing tablet according to the instructions on the label and soak the toothbrush bristles in the solution.
Don't soak a toothbrush in mouthwash for longer than 15 minutes, and don't reuse any mouthwash used for cleaning. It's also inadvisable to put a toothbrush in a microwave or dishwasher. Heating the plastic on toothbrushes could damage the brushing edge.
After you've been sick with the flu, you could throw out your toothbrush and buy another one, but that probably isn't necessary. If flu germs remain on the toothbrush, you can destroy them by disinfecting the bristles. It can take less than a minute's worth of effort to leave your toothbrush fresh and clean.