Do you know how many bacteria live on your toothbrush? Brace yourself! Researchers have found that a single toothbrush can be loaded with as many as 10 million germs and bacteria. In fact, recent studies even found that your toothbrush could be a breeding ground for tiny microorganisms.
But before you swear off brushing, know this: These bacteria aren’t a big threat to your pearly whites. According to Richard Price, DMD, a dentist in Newton, Mass. and a consumer adviser for the American Dental Association, the researchers who discovered those toothbrush-dwelling microorganisms found that they didn’t make people sick — toothpaste has an anti-germ component built into it, and the microbes need moisture to survive. So as long as your toothbrush is given time to dry after you use it, it should be safe.
How can I take care of my toothbrush?
To keep your toothbrush and yourself healthy, make sure you let it dry out between uses. Toothbrushes can be breeding grounds for germs, fungus and bacteria, which after a while can build up to significant levels. After using your toothbrush, shake it vigorously under tap water and store it in an upright position so that it can air out.
To prevent cold and flu viruses from being passed between brushes, try to keep your toothbrush from touching others when it is stored. A standard toothbrush holder with slots for several brushes to hang upright is a worthwhile investment in your family's health.
How often should I change my toothbrush?
Most dentists agree you should change your toothbrush every three months. Studies show that after three months of normal wear and tear, toothbrushes are much less effective at removing plaque from teeth and gums compared to new ones. The bristles break down and loose their effectiveness in getting to all those tricky corners around your teeth.
It is also important to change toothbrushes after you've had a cold, the flu, a mouth infection or a sore throat. That's because germs can hide in toothbrush bristles and lead to reinfection. Even if you haven't been sick, fungus and bacteria can develop in the bristles of your toothbrush —another reason to change your toothbrush regularly.
How can I protect my toothbrush when traveling?
A plastic toothbrush case will protect toothbrush bristles from becoming squashed or flattened in your traveling kit. After brushing, however, you should let your toothbrush dry in the open air, to help reduce the spread of germs.