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Is it necessary to disinfect your toothbrush?

By Robert B.

While brushing oneís teeth, toothbrushes become contaminated with bacteria, saliva, oral debris, and toothpaste. Because of this debris, a common recommendation is to rinse your toothbrush thoroughly with water after brushing.

The problem is that research has suggested that after being rinsed visibly clean, toothbrushes can remain contaminated with potentially pathogenic bacteria. In response to this, many companies have developed various means of cleaning, disinfecting or toothbrush sanitizers. To date, however, no published research shows that brushing with a contaminated toothbrush has led to recontamination of a userís mouth or any other oral infections.

Recommended Toothbrush Care from the CDC

  • Do not share toothbrushes. The exchange of body fluids that such sharing would foster places toothbrush sharers at an increased risk for infections, a particularly important consideration for persons with compromised immune systems or infectious diseases.

  • Do not routinely cover toothbrushes or store them in closed containers. Humid conditions are more conducive to bacterial growth than the open air.

  • Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, or sooner if the bristles appear worn. This recommendation of the American Dental Association is based on the expected wear of the toothbrush and its subsequent loss of effectiveness, not on its levels bacterial contamination.

  • After brushing, rinse your toothbrush thoroughly with tap water to ensure the removal of toothpaste and debris, allow it to air-dry, and store it in an upright position. If multiple brushes are stored in the same holder, do not allow them to contact each other.

  • It is not necessary to soak toothbrushes in disinfecting solutions or mouthwash. This may lead to cross-contamination of toothbrushes if the same disinfectant solution is used over a period of time or by multiple users.

  • Also, it is unnecessary to use dishwashers, microwaves, or a UV light toothbrush cleaner to disinfect toothbrushes. These measures may infact damage the toothbrush.

The decision to purchase or use products to disinfect your toothbrush requires careful consideration, as the research does not support this practice at the present time.

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