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As you brush and floss your teeth every day to protect your teeth and gums from decay and gum disease, you are removing bacteria that inhabit your mouth and cause plaque. Your oral cavity is home to millions of microorganisms that can be transferred to your toothbrush along with toothpaste, saliva, blood and oral debris, so you will want to rinse your toothbrush well with warm water after every use.

While the American Dental Association recommends cleaning your toothbrush once a week, both the ADA and the Council on Scientific Affairs recommend that you maintain your toothbrush by doing the following:

Don’t share
Whether children sharing with their siblings, or if you use your partner’s toothbrush, this allows the exchange of body fluids and bacteria. This can be detrimental if you have an infection or if someone has a compromised immune system or an infectious disease. Reduce germ-sharing by making sure everyone has their own toothbrush!

Storage
When you are finished brushing your teeth after a meal, place it upright in a cup or container that prevents the bristles from touching other surfaces. Avoid cross-contamination with others if you are sharing a toothbrush holder by making sure the bristles do not touch each other.

Air-dry
You may have noticed toothbrush covers on the dental aisle of your local supermarket. You might think these would keep your toothbrush cleaner, but the ADA advises against using toothbrush covers. Closed receptacles allow moisture which is a breeding ground for microorganisms. Unless your brush is allowed to dry, it will breed more bacteria. Unless you are traveling, keep your toothbrush free to air-dry after each use.

With repeated use, your toothbrush bristles will wear down and splay. When this happens, the bristles will lose their effectiveness and won’t clean your teeth as well. The ADA recommends changing your toothbrush every three to four months, but it is a good idea to check your bristles regularly and replace them when they appear frayed.

Although you may have heard it is safe to disinfect your toothbrush by dishwasher or microwave, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against disinfecting your toothbrush in them. They can actually damage the toothbrush making it ineffective in cleaning your teeth properly. Manufacturers of microwaves and dishwashers did not design them to be safe for toothbrush use. Instead, the CDC recommends that you soak your toothbrush in antibacterial mouthwash to help reduce germs. Although it isn’t necessary to soak your toothbrush in an antibacterial mouthrinse after using, it may decrease bacteria levels that can grow on toothbrushes.

Using these toothbrush care tips, you can maintain your oral health at your best! If you have any questions you can reach Dr. Eli Lawrence’s dental team at 312-236-9895.