Is Your Toothbrush Contaminated?

Have you ever wondered what happens to the nasty “bugs” that you brush off of your teeth? The truth may surprise you. Many of the bacteria, fungi, and viruses actually remain on your toothbrush! So the next time you use a contaminated toothbrush, remember that the infectious microorganisms remaining on the brush can reinfect your mouth and teeth again! Some of the microorganisms can even spread to the rest of your body.


  • 1. Mutans streptococcus – the main bacterium causing dental caries.
  • 2. Beta-hemolytic streptococcus – the main bacterium causing strep throat (pharyngotonsillitis).
  • 3. Candida albicans – the main fungus causing thrush in babies.
  • 4. Coliform bacteria – these are found in the bathroom.
  • 5. Herpes simplex virus – they causes cold sores.WHO IS AT RISK?
  • Children or adults with an oral infection, such as dental caries.
  • Family members related to a child or adult with an oral infection.
  • Immunologically compromised children or adults.
  • Children or adults who are undergoing chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant, or organ transplant procedures.HOW TO PREVENT TOOTHBRUSH CONTAMINATION:
  • 1. The American Dental Association recommends changing toothbrushes every three months.
  • 2. Sick children or adults should replace their toothbrushes as soon as possible – to prevent reinfection, or infection of another person.
  • 3. Children or adults who are immunocompromised, or undergoing chemotherapy should change their toothbrushes every three days.
  • 4. Always store toothbrushes in an aerated and ventilated environment – never sealed-up in a closed container.
  • 5. Label and clearly identify each child’s toothbrush, so that sharing of toothbrushes is avoided. Do not let children share toothbrushes!
  • 6. Disinfect all toothbrushes daily.METHODS OF DISINFECTING TOOTHBRUSHES:
  • 1. Disinfect contaminated toothbrushes overnight in a solution of household bleach (sodium hypochlorite). Then rinse in clean water, and allow to air dry. Keep the bleach in a plastic container – not a metal container.
  • 2. Keep all bleach products well out of reach of children! In case of accidental ingestion of bleach, do not induce vomiting, but give plenty of water.
  • 3. You can also disinfect toothbrushes by cleaning them in a dishwasher every night – along with eating utensils. Allow them to air dry afterwards.A recent article published in Pediatric Dentistry discussed toothbrush contamination in a day care setting. The article concluded that toothbrushes can be adequately disinfected by soaking them either in a 0.12% chlorhexidine gluconate solution (Peridex) for 20 hours, or in a 1 % sodium hypochlorite solution (1 part bleach, 4 parts water) for 20 hours.

source: Filho PN, Macari S, Faria G, Assed S, Ito IY: Microbial contamination of toothbrushes and their decontamination. Pediatric Dentistry. 2000 22(5) 381-384.

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