As a parent, you’re probably concerned about keeping your child healthy. With all those things you might worry about — like air and water quality, sick kids at school and babies putting dirty objects in their mouths — fretting about your child’s toothbrush is probably not at the top of that list. But did you know that an average toothbrush might contain 10 million bacteria?
We often do things out of habit and don’t even think about them. For example, you probably store your family’s toothbrushes on or near the bathroom sink, which, in most bathrooms, is close to the toilet. Do you always close the lid before you flush? If not, bacteria from toilet spray can settle on nearby surfaces, which might include your toothbrushes. Yikes!
How Important is it to Keep a Toothbrush Clean?
There are many places where viruses and bacteria can live, and this unfortunately includes toothbrushes. While a toothbrush is a tool that keeps the mouth and teeth clean, if you’re brushing with a dirty toothbrush, you’re defeating the purpose! If a toothbrush isn’t kept clean, bacteria can be easily transferred to the mouth and then into the body. While you can’t keep your child completely free of germs, you can greatly minimize illnesses by keeping items they put in their mouth, such as their toothbrush, as clean as possible. Just as you teach them to regularly wash their hands (this is especially important during flu season), you can help keep them healthy with a clean, fresh toothbrush.
How Can I Keep My Child’s Toothbrush Clean?
The American Dental Association provides recommendations for keeping toothbrushes clean. They also give guidelines on how to properly store toothbrushes and how often to replace them.
- Rinse toothbrush thoroughly with tap water after every brushing – this removes any food particles, remaining toothpaste and debris.
- Do not cover toothbrushes or store in a sealed container – The moisture in a closed container is more likely to encourage microorganisms to grow than free-flowing air. Ideally, store toothbrushes in an upright position with ample airflow so that they dry completely. Moisture invites bacteria to grow. Storing toothbrushes in a medicine cabinet is a good idea, so long as they will completely dry between uses. Make sure that brushes don’t touch each other, since this may cause cross-contamination.
- Store toothbrushes so that they can’t be splashed – It is best to keep toothbrushes out of the way of the sink, so that they’re not accidentally splashed when people wash their hands. This will minimize the spread of germs.
- Periodically soak toothbrushes in an anti-bacterial solution – Soaking the toothbrush in anti-bacterial mouthwash can decrease its bacteria level. You can also rinse the brush in this solution before brushing to reduce bacteria.
- Do not share toothbrushes with other family members – Exchanged body fluids and microorganisms between toothbrush users increases the risk of infections. This is especially important for those with an infectious illness or a weakened immune system.
- Replace toothbrushes every 3-4 months – This is typically the length of time when toothbrush bristles become worn out and frayed. Regularly replacing toothbrushes also minimizes bacteria growth.