Your toothbrush is a powerful tool that you use daily to keep your mouth clean. Brushing your teeth twice a day can prevent oral complications like tooth decay and gum disease.
Your toothbrush cleans your teeth, so it is important for you to clean your toothbrush. The bristles of your toothbrush trap food particles and collect bacteria over time. Knowing how to sanitize a toothbrush properly takes your oral hygiene a step further, ensuring your best line of defense against oral bacteria isn't becoming a part of the problem.
How to Clean Your Toothbrush
Rinsing your toothbrush after each use is always a good idea because it removes any toothpaste or food that may remain on the bristles. Going one step further to deep clean your toothbrush once a week reduces the number of bacterial colonies that are growing on your toothbrush.
Fecal matter, staphylococci, intestinal bacteria, and a whole host of other types of micro-bacterial colonies have been found living on toothbrushes. Sanitizing your toothbrush regularly cuts down on the number of germs hanging around your toothbrush and can also make you feel better about the cleanliness of this important oral hygiene tool.
Running your toothbrush under the hot tap is an easy way to loosen and remove oils and food debris that can harbor bacteria. Let the hot water run until steaming then stick your toothbrush under the running water to thoroughly rinse it of any toothpaste or food particles. Do this before and after you brush your teeth to reduce the bacterial population even further.
The antibacterial mouthwash you have in the cabinet can also be used to kill bacteria on your toothbrush. Once a week, soaking your toothbrush for about 20 minutes in a mixture of half a cup of water and one teaspoon of mouthwash greatly reduces the number of bacteria living between the bristles.
Also, swishing with your mouthwash before you brush your teeth eliminates the germs in your mouth so you can't transfer them to your toothbrush.
If you wear dentures, you probably have extra denture cleaner lying around. Sticking your toothbrush bristle-side down in a half cup of water with half of a dissolved cleaner tablet once a week can reduce whatever is growing and thriving on your toothbrush.
Hydrogen peroxide is an anti-septic solution that can be used to eliminate bacteria found on your toothbrush — it's an easy, inexpensive way to sanitize your toothbrush. Mix in about one teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide in a cup of water and soak your toothbrush in the solution. Storing your toothbrush, bristles side down, in this solution will keep your toothbrush clean but be sure to change out the solution every day.
Best Practices for Maintaining a Clean Toothbrush
Setting time aside once a week to deep clean your toothbrush is vital. However, there are several other ways to ensure you're always brushing with a clean toothbrush.
Washing Your Hands
Before brushing your teeth, wash your hands with soap and water. This reduces the transfer of germs to the handle of the toothbrush.
Storing Your Toothbrush Properly
Storing your toothbrush standing up in a toothbrush holder allows it to air dry between brushings completely.
Knowing When to Toss the Brush
Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or if your toothbrush shows any wear and tear. Bent bristles do not clean as well as they should. If you notice any frayed or damaged bristles, it is time to get a new toothbrush.
Toss your toothbrush after being sick. You do not want to re-infect yourself after getting over an illness. Keeping those germs around could even get someone else in the house sick. Get a new toothbrush to start your clean bill of health off on the right foot.
Toothbrushes Are Not for Sharing
Never share your toothbrush with anyone. Also, be careful storing your toothbrush near someone else's toothbrush. They should never come in contact with each other.
Alternative Toothbrush Cleaning Methods
Rinsing their toothbrush with hot water may not be enough to eliminate the bacteria hiding in the bristles. To take cleaning your toothbrush a step further, try out several sanitizing methods to make sure your toothbrush is as clean as possible.
As people become more aware of not only the presence of bacteria but even the specific kinds of micro bacteria that can be living on their toothbrushes, the realization can be difficult to shake. Buying a gadget specifically made to clean toothbrushes can help you feel like you are doing something about your dirty toothbrush. There are multiple UV sanitizers available for purchase that will surround your toothbrush with UV light for 3 to 10 minutes.
Some promising evidence shows that UV sanitizers are more effective at reducing bacteria on toothbrushes than soaking them in a chlorhexidine gluconate solution. But the CDC suggests that UV sanitizers may actually damage your toothbrush in the process and are generally unnecessary for sanitizing a toothbrush.
The dishwasher can be a great place to clean and sanitize cups and dishes, as well as different baby items like pacifiers. But you could also use your dishwasher to sanitize your toothbrush. This can be an easy way for you to deep clean your toothbrush while you do other things around the house.
However, some dishwashers get hotter than others. Because a high heat setting can damage your toothbrush, the American Dental Association does not recommend cleaning your toothbrush with a dishwasher.
If you want to try sanitizing your toothbrush in the dishwasher, a few things to keep in mind are:
- Never wash it with dirty dishes
- Do not use detergent
- Be ready to replace your toothbrush if it gets damaged
- Add a half cup of vinegar for an added anti-microbial performance
Additional Tips for Maintaining Good Oral Health
Keeping your teeth clean has a huge impact on your oral health. Basic oral hygiene reduces the chances of developing tooth decay and gum disease and benefits your overall health. To keep your mouth healthy, develop good habits, such as:
Brush Your Teeth
Every morning after breakfast and before you go to bed at night, you should brush your teeth for about two minutes.
Take time to floss before bed to remove food between your teeth.
Eat a Well Balanced Diet
A diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods will keep your body healthy so you can fight off germs.
Schedule Regular Checkups with Your Dentist
A dentist checks that your mouth is getting the daily attention it needs. If there are tartar or early signs of gum disease, your dentist will identify these issues and begin treating your mouth. Your dentist can also recommend which toothbrush is best for you.
The Type of Toothbrush and Toothpaste You Use Matter
Brushing your teeth twice a day keeps your mouth healthy. Because of their frequent use, the type of toothbrush and toothpaste you use can have a big impact on your oral health.
According to the American Dental Association, a toothbrush with multi-level bristles do a better job of cleaning your teeth. Soft bristles also are recommended over firm bristles because they are least likely to hurt your gums.
The toothpaste you choose should have the ADA seal of approval as well as fluoride to truly protect your teeth. In addition, the higher the fluoride concentration in the toothpaste you choose, the harder the surfaces of your teeth, as see a 2013 study comparing toothpastes with 1,300 parts per million fluoride to 5,000 parts per million fluoride.
If you find that you have sensitive teeth, getting either an over-the-counter sensitive toothpaste or prescription toothpaste from your dentist should help with the sensitivity.
Finding a Dentist Near You
If you are looking for a dentist in your community to help keep you on the right track of oral health, Smile Generation can connect you with experienced and highly recommended dentists in your area. Oral hygiene works best when you are consistent. Ensuring a dentist gets a good look at your teeth at regular intervals throughout the year is as important as brushing twice daily and sanitizing your toothbrush weekly.
Smile Generation blog articles are reviewed by a licensed dental professional before publishing. However, we present this information for educational purposes only with the intent to promote readers’ understanding of oral health and oral healthcare treatment options and technology. We do not intend for our blog content to substitute for professional dental care and clinical advice, diagnosis, or treatment planning provided by a licensed dental professional. Smile Generation always recommends seeking the advice of a dentist, physician, or other licensed healthcare professional for a dental or medical condition or treatment.
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