Observing good oral hygiene alone will not prevent the growth of gum disease, tooth decay, or other infections in your mouth. Even if your toothbrush is rinsed well, it still can breed unhealthy bacteria. A toothbrush is like a Petri dish that breeds viruses, germs and harmful bacteria that thrive in a moist bathroom environment. Your toothbrush is a carrier of oral bacteria that may come from microorganisms gathered from the environment, from bacteria that have built up in your oral cavity, or from the unsterile packaging of your toothbrush. The bacteria on your toothbrush transfer to your mouth every time you brush your teeth.
It is important that your toothbrush is regularly sanitized. Sanitizing a toothbrush does not simply mean doing a quick rinse under the sink after you finish brushing. Especially if there is someone ill in the family with an infectious disease, sanitation is necessary. Sanitizing your toothbrush helps prevent the bacteria build up on it from worsening any kind of infection already in your mouth.
Some people believe that one way of sanitizing a toothbrush is by placing a cap on the toothbrush head or by storing it in a case. What these people do not realize is that enclosed environments build moisture that is conductive to the growth of microorganisms and bacteria. Enclosing the head with a cap or storing your toothbrush does not sanitize it.
Now that more people are becoming aware of the need to sanitize their toothbrushes, many toothbrush sanitization products are being manufactured. There are not enough studies to prove how effective it is to sanitize your toothbrush but since being preventive will not make things worse, you can sanitize your toothbrush by using any of the following suggested methods:
- Use commercially sold toothbrush sanitizers that claim to be effective in killing up to 99.99% of the bacteria and microorganisms lodged on your toothbrush.
- Submerge your toothbrush in an antiseptic mouthwash or an antibacterial solution like Listerine for around 15 to 20 minutes. The best anti-bacterial rinses have been proven to be as effective in sanitizing as commercial toothbrush sanitizers. Do not leave your toothbrush immersed in an antiseptic solution for more than 20 minutes. Leaving your toothbrush wet makes it a breeding ground for microorganisms. Make sure you air-dry your toothbrush after rinsing and sanitizing it.
- Reader’s Digest suggests placing your toothbrush for 15 seconds in a microwave to sanitize it. Radiation coming from the microwave can kill the bacteria, microbes and germs that live on your toothbrush.
- Another way to sanitize your toothbrush is by placing it in hot steam, dry heat or boiling water for around 5 minutes. Boiling will kill most of the bacteria, but depending on the quality of your toothbrush, boiling it several times could wear out its bristles.
- Aside from commercially sold toothbrush liquid sanitizers, there are available now in the market, ultraviolet sterilizing lamps that claim to be capable of killing harmful viruses and bacteria. Before a purchase, checkout reviews that prove they are effective and have been FDA approved.
To maintain the quality of your toothbrush:
- Always store your toothbrush in an open container and in an upright position.
- Make sure to replace your old toothbrush after three months.
- Thoroughly rinse your toothbrush after every use and air-dry it.
- Do not put a cap on your toothbrush head or store it in a case, closed container, or drawer. Closed environments and containers allow bacteria to breed and grow.