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Tips for taking care of your toothbrush

Our mouth is home to millions of germs, including those living in the plaque on our teeth, so it's no surprise that these germs can collect on your toothbrush. 

But bacteria from your toilet can also end up on your bristles. When you flush a toilet, the swirling water that removes waste from the bowl also mixes with small particles of that waste, shooting aerosolized feces — called fecal coliform bacteria — into the air. 

This phenomenon is known as a toilet plume, which can reach as high as 15 feet, says Philip Tierno, a microbiologist at New York University. And studies have shown that it can end up on your toothbrush. 

While it's not believed that the germs on your toothbrush can directly cause health problems, regularly cleaning your toothbrush, storing it properly, and knowing when to replace it is important for maintaining good oral hygiene. 

After all, what's the point of brushing your teeth if your toothbrush isn't clean? Here's how to prevent the spread of germs to and from your toothbrush and the best ways to clean it.  

1. Wash your hands before and after brushing your teeth

First, it's important to wash your handswith soap and water for at least 20 seconds whenever you'll be touching your toothbrush. 

Your hands are the main vehicles of transmission for bacteria and viruses, so washing your hands before and after brushing will help stop the spread of germs to and from your bristles. 

"You can't overemphasize the importance of washing your hands, whether it is flu season or allergy season," says William Martin, President of the Maryland State Dental Association. "People are vulnerable to the germs that end up on their hands and under their fingernail beds." 

2. Rinse and store your toothbrush properly 

You should thoroughly rinse your toothbrush with tap water after every use to remove any remaining food particles, toothpaste, and plaque debris, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). 

After rinsing, store it in an upright position and allow it to air-dry. The bacteria that live on your toothbrush are mostly anaerobic, meaning they die in the presence of oxygen, so air-drying will kill most of the bacteria. 

In addition, germs flourish in moistureand closed containers or cabinets, so it's important to leave it in the open air. But try not to store it close to your toilet — and close your toilet seat before flushing — in order to protect against germs from toilet plumes. 

Lastly, avoid storing multiple brushes, such as those of family members, in the same holder or in a drawer together. It's best if they do not contact each other, as germs can also spread that way. 

3. Disinfect your toothbrush 

If you want to take extra precaution — or, say you drop your toothbrush on the floor, and it's visibly dirty — you may want to disinfect your toothbrush to better kill germs. 

Hydrogen peroxide is an effective disinfectant that can destroy essential components of germ cells and deactivate a wide range of microorganisms. Antiseptic mouthwash contains various active ingredients, such as alcohol, menthol, and eucalyptol, which can all kill bacteria. 

According to this 2011 study, soaking your toothbrush in either a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution or antiseptic mouthwash killed 100% of germs. 

4. Keep your toothbrush safe while traveling

To keep your toothbrush germ-free while traveling, you should unpack it, remove its case, and store it properly everywhere you go. 

Air-drying your toothbrush for as long as possible — and ideally until it is completely dry — before putting it back in its travel case is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself from germs. 

You can also clean your travel case by rinsing it in hot water to loosen any dirt, and washing it with soap or soaking in antibacterial mouthwash for 10 to 15 minutes, just as you would with your toothbrush. 

5. Know when to throw your toothbrush away 

Toothbrushes should be replaced approximately every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles become matted or frayed, according to the ADA. 

by Hannah Roberts (Insider) Views: 1,051

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