Toothbrushes can be a breeding ground for a variety of germs. Bacteria, viruses and fungi can breed in environments that are warm and moist. When bacteria/viruses from the mouth are transferred to the toothbrush following brushing they can survive and multiply.
This is because the toothbrush may provide an ideal environment of warmth and moisture. If the toothbrush is not allowed to dry between use the bacteria/virus can be transferred back into the mouth when the brush is next used. Also if another person’s toothbrush is used then the bacteria/viruses can be transferred from person to person. Bacteria/viruses can also be transferred from toothbrush to toothbrush if they come in contact with each other while they are not in use or being stored.
To reduce bacteria/viral/fungal growth and to prevent their transmission from toothbrushes, basic hygiene practices are recommended.
- People should only use their own toothbrush.
- Store toothbrushes in a clean, dry, ventilated place so they can dry out between use. You may need two brushes per person used alternately to achieve this.
- Store the toothbrushes separately so they do not touch other toothbrushes.
- After brushing your teeth your toothbrush should be rinsed thoroughly under fast running water to remove toothpaste, food particles and plaque. Then remove excess water from the toothbrush to assist with drying.
- Replace toothbrushes regularly, when they become shaggy or clogged with toothpaste.
- Also replace toothbrushes after illness such as colds or mouth and throat infections.
- Follow personal hygiene practices such as washing hands after going to the toilet and washing the toothbrush if it falls on the floor or in the hand basin.
Source: Dental Health Education Unit, South Australia Dental Service, December 1998