How to Protect Your Teeth

Dirty Toothbrushes: What Harm Can They Cause?

You trust your toothbrush to keep your mouth healthy and free from harmful bacteria, but could it be doing more harm than good? The unfortunate truth is that toothbrushes can harbor dangerous microorganisms and other unpleasant things that can lead to long-term health problems. These nasty bacteria are usually picked up from countertops, toothbrush sharing, or even through the air. Taking proper care of your toothbrush can diminish these dangers and keep your smile—and your whole body—happy and healthy. 

Don't Share Your Toothbrush

The American Dental Association advises against this due to the likelihood of bacterial transfer through bodily fluids. Even if the other person is not outwardly sick, he or she may be carrying dormant bacteria that your immune system is not prepared to deal with. Sharing a toothbrush markedly increases an individual's risk of sickness or infection.

Rinse After Each Use

Thoroughly rinsing your toothbrush with water or mouthwash after each and every use will remove excess toothpaste, food particles, and plaque. If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense; after all, you can't expect to clean a window with a dirty rag! 

Store Upright

Keeping your toothbrush in an upright position can prevent germs and bacteria from countertops and sinks from reaching the head. This cuts down dramatically on the number of harmful bacteria living on your toothbrush. 

Let it Air Dry

Giving your toothbrush enough time to air dry between uses is always a good idea. A damp toothbrush harbors bacteria, spores, and even mold! Those are definitely not things you want to put in your mouth. 

Avoid Cross Contamination

Try your best to prevent the head of your toothbrush from touching other surfaces like the sink, faucet, cabinet, countertop, or other toothbrushes. The more isolated it is, the fewer germs it can pick up. 


Your toothbrush should not be stored in a closed container with insufficient ventilation, as this can prevent the toothbrush from drying and encourage bacteria to multiply and mold to proliferate. It's best to store toothbrushes in an open area where they can air dry between uses. 


You should be replacing your toothbrush or toothbrush heads every three months at the most. Frequent replacement is the best way to protect yourself from harmful microorganisms that build up on every toothbrush over time, regardless of your best efforts. 


Toothbrushes should be placed well away from toilets. Place them in the medicine cabinet or drawers in your bathroom. If they are out in the open, keep them as far away from the toilet area as possible. This is because every time a toilet is flushed, particles are forced into the air, settling on anything within about a 6-foot range. Gross! The toothbrush should also not be too near the sink, where dirty or soapy water can be dripped onto it from people who are washing their hands. 

There are several common mistakes made every day that make toothbrushes more unsafe for everyone, but the good news is that once you know about them, you can avoid having a dirty toothbrush. Make sure to follow these tips to keep your toothbrush clean and healthy! A dentist like Associated Family Dentistry LTD is sure to offer other helpful suggestions.