Is Disinfecting Your Toothbrush Really Necessary?

Photo: Stocksy/Marti Sans
Ever wondered how to clean a toothbrush? Unlike other items you might take the time to disinfect—like jade rollers and makeup brushes—toothbrushes typically just wait to be replaced. But should you be cleaning your toothbrush between uses?

According to orthodontist Ana Castilla, DDS, your mouth is home to millions of germs and becomes "contaminated with bacteria, saliva, food debris, and maybe even blood the moment you use your toothbrush," but, she says, disinfecting your toothbrush isn't necessary—or even recommended.

"The human body is constantly exposed to potentially harmful microbes, and it's very capable of protecting itself with a healthy immune system," says Dr. Castilla. "While various means of disinfecting or sanitizing toothbrushes between uses have been developed, there's no published research that says brushing with a contaminated toothbrush has led to recontamination of a user's mouth, oral infections, or other adverse health effects. In fact, some cleaning methods—like UV light cleaners or cleaning in a dishwasher—may even damage your toothbrush, making it less effective."

While you can skip the disinfectant, other things you can do to limit risk include proper storage and personal usage. "Don't ever share your toothbrush," says Dr. Castilla. "Rinse it with tap water until it's completely clean and let it air-dry in an upright position where it's not touching anyone else's toothbrush." And keeping it in a cabinet or drawer isn't recommended: "Don’t put a little case around your toothbrush head or store it in a dark place. Bacteria grows best in a dark, moist environment."

Another thing to keep in mind? Your toothbrush has an expiration date. Castilla says to follow the 3-month rule to ensure that you're brushing with a hygienic tool. "This is one of the biggest oral-care faux pas I see people commit," she says. "People are busy, and shopping to replace a frayed, beat-up toothbrush is the last thing on their mind. One suggestion is to purchase multiple toothbrushes at a time. That way, when it’s time to change it, you already have a stash of them at home." Subscription companies like Quip do the work for you, delivering fresh brush heads every 90 days.

As long as you're keeping it to yourself, storing it correctly, and replacing it regularly, your toothbrush should work just fine—no deep-cleaning required.

Dentists are giving the okay to cut this staple out of your teeth-cleaning routine. And find out how to keep your teeth healthy if you grind them while you sleep.

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