How do I prevent bacteria growth on my toothbrush?

Store the brush in an upright position if possible and allow it to air dry until using it again. Do not routinely cover toothbrushes or store them in closed containers. A moist environment, such as a closed container, is more conducive to the growth of microorganisms than the open air.

Make sure to replace your toothbrush every three to four months. Bristles that become frayed and worn with use will be less effective at cleaning teeth. Look for toothbrushes that display the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

To help prevent bacteria growth on your toothbrush, follow these basic steps:
  • Keep your toothbrush clean and dry when not in use.
  • Shake your toothbrush dry after each use.
  • Do not share your toothbrush with others.
  • Change your toothbrush every four months.
Dr. Todd A. Welch, DMD
  • One toothbrush should have one owner - If you share your toothbrush, you could also be sharing bodily fluids and bacteria, increasing your risk of infection.
  • Toothbrushes need privacy, too - For the same reason, when storing brushes, make sure they are placed in such a way that they can't touch each other.
  • Give your toothbrush some space - Keep your brush in a clean, well-ventilated spot and make sure it has time to dry in between uses. Keeping your toothbrush in a closed, moist space regularly can encourage the growth of germs.
  • Showering is good for your toothbrush - Before and after each use, rinse your toothbrush under running water to eliminate excess toothpaste and other residue. Rub your fingers along the bristles -- but only after washing your hands; no use substituting one set of germs for another. When you're finished, shake out the brush to accelerate drying.
  • Let your toothbrush indulge in a nice bath - You may be able to reduce the amount of bacteria on your brush by soaking it in anti-bacterial mouthwash after each use.
  • Don't get too attached to your toothbrush - Swap your old toothbrush for a new one at least as often as every three to four months. Keep an eye out for frayed bristles and replace sooner if necessary. The more worn the bristles, the less effective brushing is. Of course, if you've been sick with the flu, a cold, or a mouth infection, say goodbye to your toothbrush and move on to a new, germ-free one immediately.
  • Don't trust Aunt Minnie's toothbrush-cleaning advice - Although they certainly mean well, and they're clearly creative, your friends and relatives with home-cooked ideas about cleaning toothbrushes may not be the safest sources of information. Dishwashers, microwaves, and boiling water are no substitute for simply buying a new brush -- and in fact could damage your brush, rendering it less effective.

The following are important points for preventing bacteria growth on your toothbrush:

  • Never share your toothbrush. It’s like a bacteria swap meet.
  • Change yours at both the start and at the end of any illness, even if it’s something as innocuous as the common cold.
  • Air-dry it nightly. This might seem obvious, but, believe it or not, some people toss theirs into the bottom of a dark drawer right after using them. A wet toothbrush in a dark enclosed area is just begging for more bacteria to hop on board and colonize.
  • Always rinse your brush thoroughly (top and bottom, for at least ten seconds) to keep any suspicious creepy crawlies away. Toothpaste can leave behind a most unappetizing residue if you don’t.
Smile!: The Ultimate Guide to Achieving Smile Beauty

More About this Book

Smile!: The Ultimate Guide to Achieving Smile Beauty

Renowned dentist and creator of the GoSMILE product line Dr. Levine offers this complete guide to getting a whiter, brighter smile. 15 photos & illustrations.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.