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Save Your Teeth, But Not Your Toothbrush
Consumers should replace toothbrushes approximately every 3-4 months or sooner if the bristles become frayed with use, according to the most recent Statement on Toothbrush Care by the American Dental Association (ADA). The ADA reports that research studies have shown that toothbrushes may harbor microorganisms that could cause oral and/or systemic infection. These microorganisms may be transferred to the toothbrush during use or during storage. Additionally toothbrushes may have organisms on them right out of the box, since they are not required to be stored in a sterile package. Although it has not been scientifically proven so far that any specific systemic disease stems from the transfer of bacteria from the toothbrush to the mouth, the ADA presents the following "common sense" recommendations for toothbrush care:
- Do not share toothbrushes. Sharing a toothbrush could result in an exchange of body fluids and/or microorganisms between the users of the toothbrush, placing the individuals involved at an increased risk for infections. The practice could be a particular concern for persons with compromised immune system or existing infectious disease.
- Thoroughly rinse toothbrushes with tap water after brushing to remove any remaining toothpaste and debris. Store the brush in an upright position if possible and allow the toothbrush to air-dry until used again. If more than one brush is stored in the same holder or area, keep the brushes separated to prevent cross-contamination.
- Do not routinely cover toothbrushes or store them in closed containers. A moist environment such as a closed container is more conducive to the growth of microorganisms than the open air.
- Rinsing with an anti-bacterial mouth rinse before brushing may prevent or decrease how rapidly bacteria build up on toothbrushes.
- Soaking toothbrushes in an antibacterial mouth rinse after use may decrease the level of bacteria that grow on toothbrushes.
- Disposable toothbrushes may be considered, even though cost may be a consideration with long-term use.
- Use only FDA-cleared toothbrush sanitizers.
To keep your teeth clean, you must also keep your toothbrush clean. On a regular basis inspect and replace your toothbrush. And, of course, see your dentist at least every six months.