KSN/KODE — Chances are it’s something you haven’t thought much about – caring for your toothbrush. The concept may seem straightforward, however, this could mean a little more care than one may think.

Microbial bacteria and viruses can live for weeks on the surface of a toothbrush, according to WebMD. This can cause illness even if the microorganisms are healthy ones. Not only that, there’s no federal regulation when it comes to sterile packaging for toothbrushes–there could be bacteria on the brush straight out of the box!

When it comes to the toothbrush, there’s been a lot of debate: whether to keep it in the bathroom, use a cover, rinse in water or soak in vinegar, boil it, freeze it…the list goes on. The bottom line is it comes down to practicality and common sense.

Here’s what you absolutely should not do:

  • Don’t share a toothbrush. This can leave you susceptible to streptococcus mutans (the contagious bacteria that causes cavities), periodontal disease, viruses like HPV, and even blood-borne diseases like hepatitis B or HIV.
  • When storing multiple toothbrushes, do not allow them to touch each other. This will avoid the transference of germs.
  • Do not leave your toothbrush in the shower, or brush your teeth in the shower. The shower is a magnet for bacteria growth due to the constant humidity and wet environment. The potential for exposing your teeth to more bacteria than brushing at the sink is very high.
  • Don’t use a toothbrush cover. It prevents your toothbrush from drying properly and traps moisture, leaving it a concentrated breeding ground for harmful bacteria.


What you should do:

  • Regularly clean the room toothbrushes are stored in as well as the container that holds them.
  • Bathroom sharers should close the lid of a toilet before flushing. A study has shown that fecal bacteria was found on the toothbrushes of those who shared a bathroom.
  • Wash your hands before brushing your teeth to avoid transferring germs hand-to-mouth.
  • Rinse a toothbrush thoroughly under running tap water to remove debris and toothpaste.
  • Store toothbrushes in an upright position after use to allow them to air dry. Laying a toothbrush flat or upside down allows excess moisture to pool and prevent drying.
  • Replace a toothbrush every 3-4 months, and replace it immediately after an illness.
  • Use an FDA-approved toothbrush sanitizer or antimicrobial mouthwash on your toothbrush.