Toothbrush 101 - Maintenance and Disposal

Written by Heather Siler

Toothbrushes are breeding grounds for all sorts of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, and one toothbrush can host up to ten million microbes. Don’t panic though; research shows that the types of microbes found on your brush aren’t responsible for making you ill if germ-killing toothpaste is used and you store the brush upright so that it can dry. Following are some tips to help get the most use out of your brush without compromising your health:

  1. Know when to throw it out- When dismissing a patient and giving them a new toothbrush, many say, “Thank You. I need a new toothbrush. I’m still using the one you gave me six months ago”. Six months is far too long to keep a brush. Dental professionals have been taught to advise patients to replace their brush after three months of use or However, new research suggests differently as you’ll see below.
  2. Know how to care for your brush while traveling- When traveling, most people store their brush in a closed container. While this may seem smart, enclosing the brush allows the germs to breed much faster. It’s best to store it upright to dry because enclosing it creates moisture allowing germs to multiply quickly. It’s best to let the brush air dry away from the toilet. Also, use disposable brushes while traveling, and toss them after your trip.
  3. Toothbrush sanitizers? There are many electric sanitizers on the market, but studies show that they aren’t effective. You can sanitize your toothbrush without causing harm by soaking it in mouthwash that contains alcohol as the alcohol kills germs. You can also soak it in a mixture of 1 part water and 1 part hydrogen peroxide or dip it in boiling water for ten seconds. You shouldn’t put your toothbrush in the dishwasher or microwave to sanitize it because doing so will cause damage making it unsafe to use.
  4. Toothbrushes with built-in indicators- Some brushes have indicators telling you when to throw it away, but you still may have to replace it before the indicator says it’s time. New studies show that toothbrush replacement should be determined by the shape of the bristles and not the calendar.
  5. Store your brush in a safe place- You should always store your toothbrush uncovered and in an upright position. It can be near other brushes, but they shouldn’t touch. Also, your toothbrush shouldn’t be stored near the toilet. When flushed, the air becomes contaminated with aerosols from the toilet, and this toxic aerosol can travel up to six feet.

The bottom line is to examine the bristles at each use, and if there’s significant wear, it’s time to get a new one. However, if your brush has noticeable wear after one month, you’re brushing too vigorously and need instruction on how to brush from your dental professional. Store it at least six feet from the toilet and don’t keep it covered. By following these tips, you can rest assured that you get the most out of your brush safely and effectively.