Did you know there are billions of bacteria living in our mouths? Did you also know they comprise hundreds of different types of species? Staggering, I know!
These bacteria attach to our teeth, tongue, and other parts of the oral mucosa like the inside of our cheeks, lips, and gums. When we brush our teeth, we are only helping to remove the bacteria from the surfaces the toothbrush touches. This means it is important to remember to brush all the other areas in your mouth to ensure as much bacteria is being removed. But, you might be wondering, where does this bacteria go after brushing? On the toothbrush! So it is equally important to take proper care of your toothbrush to reduce the bacteria that goes into your mouth when the goal is to remove it!
Taking proper care of your toothbrush is not rocket science and can be done in just a few quick steps and by knowing the simple do’s and don'ts.
- Rinse your toothbrush before and after use.
Some research studies have shown that toothbrushes are contaminated before use. Use cold, tap water to help remove any existing bacteria before you begin brushing. The CDC and ADA recommend rinsing your toothbrush well with water after you brush to help remove the plaque, oral debris, saliva, possible blood, and toothpaste from your brush.
- Use toothpaste when brushing
Not only does toothpaste help remineralize and prevent cavities, another benefit based on one research study found that oral antiseptics, such as toothpaste, help decrease the number of bacteria that resides on toothbrushes.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3 months.
Toothbrush bristles must be effective and maintain their shape to remove the bacteria from your mouth. With time and use, the bristles become worn out. When you see the fray, throw it away!
- Store your toothbrush in an upright position.
By allowing your toothbrush to air-dry in an upright position, you are helping reduce the amount of bacteria that can accumulate. Research has shown that storing a toothbrush in a closed container when moist creates a hospitable environment for bacterial growth when compared to leaving it in the open air. Be sure to protect your toothbrush from other contaminants when traveling. It is best to pack a dry toothbrush in an air-tight seal.
It’s also important to store your toothbrush as far away from the toilet as possible to help keep those bad bacteria, like E.coli, from contacting your brush.
- Don’t share your brush with others.
Written by: Kristen Cockrell, MS, RDH
About the author:
Kristen Cockrell is a Registered Dental Hygienist with a passion for preventive pediatric dentistry and oral health education. Kristen earned her master’s degree in dental hygiene education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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