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Can your toothbrush make you sick?

You may have heard talk about the germs that can live on your toothbrush. But should you be concerned?

There are more bacteria in the mouth than anywhere else in your body, and some of them get on your toothbrush when you brush your teeth.

What’s more, most people store their toothbrushes in the bathroom, which tends to contain numerous airborne bacteria because of the warm, moist environment. If you cover up your toothbrush, the germs can thrive and multiply. The next time you use it, you may be introducing a host of bacteria and viruses into your body.

What can you do to keep your toothbrush clean?

You can take some common-sense steps to remove most microorganisms from your toothbrush and limit the spread of disease. Follow these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and after brushing or flossing.
  • After brushing, rinse your toothbrush with warm water and store it upright to air-dry.
  • Don't cover your toothbrush or place it in a closed container until it is completely dry. A moist environment can promote bacterial growth.
  • Use a completely dry toothbrush. Everyone should have two toothbrushes to give enough time (24 hours) for it to dry out in between uses.
  • Don't share a toothbrush with anyone. Also, don't store toothbrushes in a way that might cause them to touch and spread germs.
  • Always replace your toothbrush after a cold or other illness to prevent contamination.
  • If you or someone else in your family is sick, that person should use a different tube of toothpaste (travel size, for example), to prevent spreading germs to other family members’ toothbrushes.

Do you need to sterilize your toothbrush?

Some people use an antibacterial mouth rinse or toothbrush sanitizer to kill the germs. While these products don't do any harm and studies show they can remove microorganisms, they won’t remove all of them.

What you shouldn’t do is try to sterilize it using other methods. For instance, don’t put your toothbrush in the microwave or dishwasher. It could damage the toothbrush because it can’t withstand the extreme heat.

Last updated December 22, 2022

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.