Disinfecting and maintaining cleanliness are some of the most talked-about topics these days, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the items that should always be kept in pristine condition, no matter what time of the year it is, is the toothbrush. Appropriate cleaning, storage, and replacement of toothbrushes are extremely important to prevent the spread of diseases and maintain oral hygiene. The following tips detail the best ways to do so.
How Toothbrushes Get Contaminated
- Mouth - Out mouths are home to millions of germs, including those that live in the plaque or on our teeth, such as those responsible for the development of dental caries (cavities) called M. Sutans. Moreover, they come in contact with saliva, blood, oral debris, and toothpaste. It’s no surprise that some of these germs can collect on your toothbrush and be transferred or re-introduced into your mouth during brushing. Even visibly clean toothbrushes can retain some leftover potentially harmful germs.
- Environment - Many people keep their toothbrush in the same space the toilet is found. When the toilet is flushed, the swirling water that removes waste from the bowl may mix up with small particles of the waste, containing bacteria called fecal coliform. According to studies, this bacteria can spread as far as 1.5 feet, and it’s perfectly possible for it to travel to your toothbrush. The same is true about the sink - bacteria and viruses could potentially be spread while you're washing your hands or other items in the sink.
Below we list several toothbrush storage and cleaning tips that can help you prevent the spread of germs.
1. Wash Your Hands Before and After Use
Wash Your Hands is probably something you've heard quite a lot recently. And it isn’t just a piece of empty advice, the fight against coronavirus has really put an emphasis on how effectively a simple hand wash annihilates bacteria. Your hands are the main source of transmission of germs, bacteria, and viruses because they come in contact with the biggest variety of surfaces and objects.
Washing your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds at least, before and after brushing your teeth is the simplest way to prevent unwanted microorganisms from ending up on your toothbrush. “People are vulnerable to the germs that end up on their hands and under their fingernail beds.” William Martin, President of the Maryland State Dental Association told Insider.
2. Use Warm Water For Rinsing
Don’t underestimate the importance of rinsing your toothbrush well after use to remove any remaining food particles, toothpaste, and plaque debris. Warm water will loosen up the bristles and remove debris more effectively. Additionally, wipe down the handle. because bacteria can build up there as saliva and water run down the brush.
3. Proper Storage is Essential
Correct storage is key when it comes to toothbrush hygiene. Always opt for air drying it after rinsing, as the bacteria that live on toothbrushes are anaerobic, which means they die in the presence of oxygen. It may seem like a good idea to use a cover for the bristles, to prevent contact with contaminated air particles but that is wrong!
Exposure to oxygen will kill most of the germs, while closed containers will make them flourish. Instead of covering the toothbrush, keep it as far away from the toilet as possible, and close the toilet lid before and after flushing. Another common mistake is to keep all of the household members’ toothbrushes in the same holder. This is a popular habit, but it is actually recommended to keep them separate and at a distance from each other, as germs also spread from brush to brush.
If you want to take extra precautions, or you happened to drop your toothbrush on the floor, there is a simple way to kill the germs by disinfecting it with hydrogen peroxide or antiseptic mouthwash. Hydrogen peroxide can destroy essential components of germs and deactivate a wide range of microorganisms, while Antiseptic mouthwash contains various active ingredients, such as alcohol, menthol, and eucalyptol, which make it extremely effective at killing bacteria.
Here is how to disinfect your toothbrush with Hydrogen peroxide solution or mouthwash:
1. Rinse the bristles thoroughly in water after brushing.
2. Place some antiseptic mouthwash or 3% hydrogen peroxide into a small cup, enough to cover the toothbrush.
3. Soak for about 15 minutes — any longer risks damaging the bristles.
4. Rinse thoroughly with water before using the toothbrush again.
If you want to use a more natural substance, white vinegar or baking soda solution were found to be effective disinfectants, but they will not get rid of all the germs, particularly viruses. For the latter, just mix two teaspoons of baking soda with one cup of water and follow the steps listed above.
Related Article: Foods and Drinks That Can Damage Your Teeth
According to the American Dental Association (ADA) toothbrushes should be replaced every three months, or when the bristles become bent or frayed. When that happens the bush becomes significantly less effective at removing plaque.
You may need to stray from that timeline if someone in your household gets sick. As mentioned earlier, the ill-causing bacteria can potentially spread to nearby bushes. Naturally, it is best to replace it after you overcome illness as well, to protect your family, significant other, or housemates.