We all probably use a toothbrush every day to remove plaque and bacteria from the surface of our teeth and tongue. Although the mouth is much cleaner after a thorough brushing, the brush carries germs and debris from the mouth.
The toothbrush may also be stored in the bathroom, where bacteria can remain in the air. Therefore, there are different microorganisms that can grow on the bristles and handles of toothbrushes. Many of these are harmless and are found naturally in the mouth. But some can cause illness, like the flu.
How to clean a toothbrush
There are several methods to disinfect the brush between uses. Some are more effective than others.
run hot water over it
The most basic method of sanitizing your brush is to run hot water over the bristles before and after each use. This removes bacteria that may have accumulated on the toothbrush in the hours between brushings. It also eliminates new bacteria that may have accumulated after each use.
For most people, clean, hot water is enough to sanitize a toothbrush between uses. Before applying the toothpaste, gently run hot water over the brush head. The water must be hot enough to produce steam. After brushing them, we will rinse the brush with more hot water.
Soak it in antibacterial mouthwash
If a hot water rinse isn’t enough to give you peace of mind, we can soak your toothbrush in an antibacterial mouthwash.
Keep in mind that doing this can wear down the brush faster, as these mouthwashes often contain harsh ingredients that cause the bristles to break. This method involves letting the toothbrush sit, head down, in a small cup of mouthwash for about 2 minutes after each brushing.
You don’t need to boil your toothbrush to get it clean enough to use, as the plastic handle of most toothbrushes can begin to melt in boiling water.
But if we still want to use boiling water, we will heat the water in a kettle or pot on the stove. Once it boils, we will turn off the heat and submerge the brush for 30 seconds or so.
We can also invest in an ultraviolet light sanitizing product made especially for toothbrushes. By comparing ultraviolet light chambers made for toothbrushes with saline solution and chlorhexidine gluconate solution, ultraviolet light was found to be the most effective way to disinfect toothbrushes.
This material can be expensive and it is not necessary to have one for safe brushing. Keep in mind that experts say you don’t need to use a UV chamber to clean your toothbrush.
How to keep a toothbrush clean
Once we have disinfected the toothbrush, we can carry out some measures to keep it clean. Storing your brush properly is probably just as important as cleaning it after use.
- Avoid keeping toothbrushes side by side. Throwing multiple toothbrushes together in one cup can cause bacterial cross-contamination between the bristles. If there are several people at home, we will keep each brush about 5 centimeters away from the others.
- Put it as far as possible from the toilet. When we flush the toilet, fecal matter rises into the air in what is known as the “toilet plume” effect. This spreads harmful bacteria to all surfaces in the bathroom, including the brush. We can prevent these bacteria from contaminating the toothbrush by keeping it in a medicine cabinet with the door closed. Or you can just keep the brush as far away from the toilet as possible.
- Clean covers and brush holder. Bacteria from the brush can get on toothbrush covers and the storage containers we use to store the brush. We’ll make sure to clean the covers and bowls of your toothbrushes every 2 weeks to prevent harmful bacteria from taking hold. It is not necessary to cover the brush, but if we want it, we will let it air dry before. Covering a wet brush can lead to increased bacterial growth on the bristles.
- Use a toothpaste dispenser. When we apply toothpaste to the brush, there is always a chance that the brush and the toothpaste tube will come into contact and transfer bacteria. We can use a toothpaste dispenser to reduce this risk of cross contamination.
When to replace a toothbrush
Sometimes the best way to ensure you’re using a clean toothbrush is to simply replace it. As a general rule, we should replace the toothbrush or head every 3 to 4 months .
We must also dispose of the brush in each of the following circumstances:
- The bristles are worn. If the bristles look bent or frayed, the brush may not clean your teeth as effectively.
- Someone at home is sick. If someone in the house has had a contagious illness, such as strep throat or the flu, continuing to use the toothbrush can spread the infection.
- After a professional oral cleaning. When we go to the dentist for a dental cleaning, it is recommended to buy a new brush to avoid contaminating the cleaning.