How to Keep Your Toothbrush Clean

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Why bother to keep a toothbrush clean?

It's an established fact that when you start to use a brand new toothbrush, it only takes 30 seconds for it to become contaminated with millions of bacteria! If left uncleaned or not cleaned properly, these diverse groups of organisms will continue to multiply on the head of the toothbrush.

The fact is you can be as fussy as you like cleaning your teeth, gums and tongue - but all your hard work could be going to waste if you don't clean your toothbrush after each brushing.

However, before learning how to clean your toothbrush properly, let's look first at what bacteria can be present on them and what potential harm they could do to you.

You could be putting as many bacteria back into your mouth as you brush out, if your toothbrush is not cleaned properly
You could be putting as many bacteria back into your mouth as you brush out, if your toothbrush is not cleaned properly | Source
Microscopic photograph of dental plaque that contained gram negative and gram positive bacteria.
Microscopic photograph of dental plaque that contained gram negative and gram positive bacteria. | Source

What bacteria might be attached to your toothbrush?

Most of the bacteria on your toothbrush has actually come from your own mouth. Brushing our teeth removes billions of bacteria from our mouths onto the toothbrush. When we don't clean our toothbrush properly we are putting all these bacteria back into our mouths again. In addition there could also be things like mould or food particles sticking to the brush.

Research carried out by Manchester University, England, found that one toothbrush head harboured over 100 million bacteria of various kinds. Among the bacteria were some well known 'nasties' that included E.Coli and Staphyloccoci . Although there is no direct evidence as yet that toothbrushes always lead to illness, the fact that these types of bacteria are present should make us vigilant about keeping our toothbrush as clean as possible.

Many of the bacteria in our mouths are actually essential in keeping them healthy. Other types of bacteria present are harmless. However, there are others - in addition to E.Coli and Staphlyloccoci - such as Lactobacilli and S treptococcus mutans that will produce acid, leading to tooth decay.

Bacteria can also be classified as either 'aerobic' or 'anaerobic'. Aerobic bacteria live in an environment with oxygen and love food particles in the mouth and basically feed on sugar. The Anaerobic live in areas with no oxygen and feed off other bacteria. For a healthy mouth both kinds of bacteria are needed, but problems arise when the numbers of these bacteria increase making the flora of the mouth unbalanced and unhealthy. Anaerobic bacteria for example will not only cause bad breath when their numbers are too high, they also produce plaque. This leads to many kinds of inflammation, tooth loss and other diseases of the mouth and body systems.

The bottom line is that you need a toothbrush that is not only able to clean your mouth, tongue and gums properly, but it also has to be free from:

  • as many bacteria as possible
  • food particles
  • moulds/molds

Lets look now at how to keep our toothbrush as clean as possible.

Hygiene Poll

Do you always clean your toothbrush after cleaning your teeth?

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How to clean your toothbrush properly

Here are a few tips on how to keep your toothbrush as clean as possible:


  • "Don't brush where you flush" Manchester University, England.This advice from Manchester University is due to the invisible bacterial spray that flies through the air each time you flush your toilet. It may seem obvious, but its surprising how many people store their toothbrushes near to the toilet bowl. Even in a small bathroom, try to store your toothbrush as far away from this area as possible.
  • Wash your hands before brushing your teeth. Its hygenic to wash before putting food in your mouth, so this same rule should apply to your toothbrush.
  • Before and after brushing, give your toothbrush a good rinse with tap water.
  • After rinsing, ensure that your toothbrush will get properly dried out before the next brushing. This is because bacteria love a moist environment. Storing your toothbrush in a way that encourages moisture to remain on the bristles will give bacteria a perfect environment to grow. The best way to dry out a toothbrush is to store it upright in a holder, not lying down.
  • It's always a nice thing to share with family and friends - but don't include your toothbrush! Germs from one person that seem harmless may cause illness in another. In addition, when storing toothbrushes, don't allow the brush heads to touch each other as this encourages bacteria to spread and grow. Use a holder with separate compartments for each brush.
  • Don't store your toothbrush in a closed container. This encourages a moist environment on the head of the brush, allowing bacteria to flourish. When travelling, having your toothbrush temporarily in a container is fine, as long as you remove it as soon as you can.
  • There are a number of toothbrush sanitisers on the market. However, according to the American Dental Association, there is no clinical evidence that these sanitisers or cleansers remove bacteria any more effectively than rinsing.
  • Change your toothbrush at least every 2-3 months or sooner if the bristles are worn down.
  • The best toothbrush holders are ones that allow the brush to be held upright and also keep them apart from other toothbrushes. Many people also prefer holders with a drainer at the bottom to collect the water. However, whatever type you use ensure that you also clean out your holder regularly. Often a nasty scum teeming with bacteria can collect at the bottom of holders and you wouldn't want to risk your toothbrush coming into contact with this.
  • People who feel they want to deep clean their toothbrush should use a sanitiser about once per week. However, as mentioned earlier, there's insufficient clinical evidence at present to show that these sanitisers or other methods of deep cleaning are more effective than the rinsing and drying method. Nevertheless many people like the feel and even the taste of a deep cleaned toothbrush.

Like most health advice, a few easy steps is all it takes to avoid problems arising in the future. In the case of a toothbrush, a quick rinse and drying could ensure that you keep a bright smile well into old age!

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Comments 26 comments

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Thanks, being a "clean" freak, I have always wanted to know the answer to this question... how do you keep a toothbrush clean? I can follow this guideline and find it very much what I expected. I do believe that changing it every 2 - 3 months is the best idea, some people keep them for quite a longer time frame.


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana

Wow, I'm sure this is something that many of us don't think twice about. Thanks for providing this enlightening information and tips! I'm sure i will be looking at my toothbrush a bit differently tonight - LOL. Voted up and sharing.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

This is very useful information. We do store our toothbrushes in an upright container and rinse them after use. They are also away from the toilet though as a precaution we always close the lid before flushing which is important. I have read that when getting over any kind of illness, one's toothbrush should be changed. Makes sense! Up and useful votes.


GoGreenTips profile image

GoGreenTips 4 years ago from Indianapolis

Very interesting topic, much of it I just wasn't aware of. Scary that our toilets send out bacteria into the air every time we flush!


old albion profile image

old albion 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

My goodness. A completely new view of my toothbrush now. I'm off to the shops to buy 3 new ones. Great research thank you Seeker.

Graham.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

very useful Seeker damn and I just rinse my toothbrush out in the tiolet bowl.. not anymore!!! LOL great hub


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi teaches12345, many thanks as always for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. I'm also very particular in the hygiene area - especially in the kitchen and bathrooms, so it was a relief to know that what I was doing with the toothburshes was good for hygiene.

Being a former nurse, I've seen some freaky examples of toothbrushes that patients brought in with them to hospital - definitely not having been changed every 2-3 months! I saw one that half the bristles had fallen off and was still being used???


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Kris Heeter, many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoyed the hub. I think it's always a bit of a shocker when we discover just how many bacteria attach to things that we use everyday!! LOL!!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Peggy W - your a kindred spirit to me! LOL!! I always make sure my family close the lid as well before flushing - I do have a thing about this and can be quite picky, which I'm sure must get on people's nerves at times. But bathrooms and kitchens? I just have to make sure everything is a clean as possible!!

Many thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment - much appreciated!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi to you GoGreenTips, many thanks again for your visit and for leaving a comment - always appreciated! It's very scary to know about so many bacteria lingering around and to know there are millions and we can't even see the little blighters - very creepy!!!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Graham lovely to hear from you again - glad that you enjoyed the hub and yes finding out about all those yucky bacteria does kind of make you stand back and take a fresh view. I remember when I did a food hygiene course a few years back through my employer and they showed us the bacteria on our hands even after washing - yikes!!! I hated the thought of putting my hands near my mouth for days after that!! LOL!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

LOL!!!! Frank, no way a gentleman like you would have such nasty habits!!! Having said that, I bet it happens somewhere on the planet!! YUCK!!


fastfreta profile image

fastfreta 4 years ago from Southern California

This is very good advice. All of the things you suggest I do, however, I'd like to add one more thing that I do. Once a day before I put my tooth brush away I'll apply either alcohol or mouthwash after rinsing it well.

Voted up, useful, interesting.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

Interesting and so useful;thanks once again for a great share.

Eddy.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Thanks for this informative and useful hub. I give my toothbrush a thorough rinsing every time and change it once a month. Passing this on.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi fastfreta, many thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment - greatly appreciated.

That's quite a good idea to keep your toothbrush fresh and clean. I'll need to try the mouthwash as I like this idea!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Eddy, many thanks for the visit and glad you enjoyed the hub - thank you!!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Gypsy, lovely to hear from you and hope you had a nice weekend!!

I'm the same with my toothbrush and change it about 2 monthly - if it looks at all 'iffy' before then it goes in the bucket and I usually keep a spare in case I need a new one quickly!!!


VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States

I like to put my toothbrushes through the dishwasher, especially when we've had illness in the house. I've found out that you can sometimes re-infect yourself through your toothbrush, especially with strep. Great Hub!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi VirginiaLynne, lovely to hear from you again. I have to say what a wonderful idea! I hadn't thought about using the dishwasher - a great way to sterilise a toothbrush and would definitely get rid of the strep!!!


adrienne2 profile image

adrienne2 4 years ago from Atlanta

Hi Seeker7, When it comes to teeth, and my toothbrush I could not even think of not keeping my brush clean. Gosh! Didn't even realize some people didn't clean their brush. Thanks for sharing this information with us.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi adrienne2, many thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment - much appreciated.

I didn't realise this either until a few years ago that people didn't clean their toothbrush - yuck!!!


Faith A Mullen profile image

Faith A Mullen 3 years ago

Great detailed hub!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 3 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Faith A Mullen,

Glad you enjoyed the hub - thanks for the visit!


Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma

Excellent advice. I hate seeing a grimy toothbrush. I change every two months or sooner if I have been sick. Also, at least once a week I douse it in alcohol and let it soak a few minutes. If it gets dropped then this soak gets done sooner and lasts longer...unless I have a new spare brush in the house. Then the old one gets pitched!

Voting up and sharing!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 3 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Sharkye11, many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoyed the hub! I have to say that a dirty toothbrush is one of my pet hates, I would rather not brush my teeth rather than have to use a dirty one - yuck!!

That's very good advice about changing a toothbrush after a bout of illness, I hadn't thought about that!

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