Toothbrushes Should Not Be Shared

SEM images comparing new and used toothbrush bristles (Used with permission from Applied Science Accessed April 25, 2016).

– Toothbrushes should not be shared. Sharing a toothbrush could result in an exchange of bodily fluids and microorganisms between people.7
– Rinse the toothbrush thoroughly after each use to remove any remaining paste and debris.7
– Store toothbrushes in an upright position after use and allow them to air dry. Storing a moist toothbrush in a closed container promotes microbial growth more so than leaving it exposed to the open air.8
– Toothbrushes should be replaced approximately every three to four months or more often if the bristles become matted or frayed. The effectiveness of the brush decreases as the bristles become worn.9

Toothbrushes have been shown to harbor bacteria (including fecal coliform bacteria that can be released into the air when the toilet is flushed or can be spread to the toothbrush when the owner touches a contaminated surface before handling his or her brush).10 While toothbrushes have been shown to harbor bacteria, there is no evidence that these bacteria cause adverse health effects. Nonetheless, some patients may be interested in sanitizing their toothbrushes. While there is little data in the literature regarding toothbrush sanitizing, one study indicates that soaking a toothbrush in 3 percent hydrogen peroxide or Listerine mouthwash greatly reduces (i.e., 85 percent) bacterial load.11 Microwaving or putting toothbrushes in the dishwasher is not recommended as such high heat may damage the brush. Toothbrush sanitizer devices are available. Patients should look for a device that has been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).