How to Keep Your Toothbrush Clean
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.
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
Lets look now at how to keep our toothbrush as clean as possible.
Do you always clean your toothbrush after cleaning your teeth?
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!