Along with dental floss, a toothbrush is one of your most important weapons in fighting gum disease and tooth decay. While some dental practitioners contend that toothbrushes need to be sanitized regularly to prevent the spread of disease, neither we nor the American Dental Association nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend doing so. There is no clinical evidence that “sanitizing” one’s toothbrush—for example, soaking it in an antibacterial mouth rinse—has any effect on oral or systemic health.
We do, however, recommend the following tips for taking care of your toothbrush:
Replace your toothbrush regularly. In time, the bristles on your toothbrush become frayed and worn, and this decreases its effectiveness. Keep track of how long you have used your brush, and replace it every 3 to 4 months—or sooner if the bristles are visibly frayed.
Do not share toothbrushes. Sharing a toothbrush can result in an exchange of fluids or bacteria and lead to infection. This is a special concern for people with existing infections or compromised immune systems. Also, if you store several toothbrushes together, avoid cross-contamination by making sure they do not touch.
Rinse your toothbrush thoroughly with tap water after use. Make sure your toothbrush is free of toothpaste or debris before you store it, and let it dry before you use it again.
Store your toothbrush upright in a dry, open area. A small, closed container can encourage moisture and bacteria growth.
A search of the Internet will yield additional tips that are not supported by medical research. These would include putting your toothbrush in a microwave or dishwasher, two appliances not designed for cleaning toothbrushes that may actually damage the toothbrush.
The tips above are all you need to ensure that your toothbrush remains a powerful weapon against tooth decay and gum disease. If you have any questions or concerns about caring for your toothbrush, ask us at your next appointment. We will be happy to discuss them with you.