The short answer to the question, “how should I clean my toothbrush?” is; “don’t.” Using additional cleaning methods to try to clean a toothbrush after you are sick or have dropped, it may actually do more harm than good to your teeth and gums.
Keep it Clean
To keep your toothbrush as clean as possible, store your toothbrush in a dry place. Rinse your toothbrush with water after you use it and let it air dry. Do not store it in an enclosed space as this creates an environment which is more conducive for growing microorganisms. If you store your toothbrush in a cup or a toothbrush holder, make sure it is separate from any other toothbrushes to prevent cross contamination.
Do not share your toothbrush, as this could result in the transfer of bodily fluids and bacteria. This is especially the case if you or the person you are sharing with has periodontal disease or an active caries infection, active tooth decay.
You should also be mindful of the location you are storing your toothbrush. If you store it in a bathroom; keep your toothbrush away from the toilet. It is best to store your toothbrush in a medicine cabinet or in your bedroom.
Replace your toothbrush every three to four months. As you use your toothbrush, the bristles become worn out and bacteria will grow. Replacing your toothbrush every three to four months (or sooner), is the best way to ensure that your teeth are properly maintained.
Do not try to sterilize a toothbrush in boiling water, your dishwasher, or your microwave. The heat from these will warp your toothbrush bristles making it less efficient at cleaning your teeth. These methods of sterilization will shorten the life of your toothbrush.
The ADA does not recommend any commercial toothbrush sterilizers, as there is no clinical evidence that use of one will help your oral or systemic health. The same is true for using an antibacterial mouth rinse to clean off your toothbrush.
Is There a Need to Sterilize Your Toothbrush?
There is evidence that bacteria will grow on your toothbrush, however “there is insufficient clinical evidence to support that bacterial growth on toothbrushes will lead to specific adverse oral or systemic health effects.” (source) As this is the case, our Evanston dentists advise using a common sense approach to taking care of your toothbrush. If you believe that you are at a higher risk of infection, take preventative steps such as changing your toothbrush more frequently or using disposable toothbrushes.