Manufacturers of new products designed to sterilize toothbrushes would have consumers believe their toothbrushes are lethal weapons, wielding disease-spreading germs. However, experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say there is no evidence that toothbrushes make people sick. They point out that bacteria and other microorganisms are common, and that our mouths contain bacteria, whether or not we sterilize our toothbrushes. It’s a leap, says the CDC, to assume that the mere presence of bacteria on a toothbrush can or will lead to illness.
The over-the-counter products use ultraviolet rays, steam or dry heat to sterilize toothbrushes, or come in the form of soaking solutions. While these products don’t do any harm (company studies show they do succeed in removing germs), a simple regimen for toothbrush care will be just as effective.
* Rinse and air-dry your toothbrush and store it upright. The CDC says these steps are sufficient to remove most microorganisms from your toothbrush.
* Don’t cover your toothbrush or place it in a closed container. This can foster bacterial growth.
* Don’t share a toothbrush with anyone. Also, don’t store toothbrushes in a way that might cause them to touch.
* Replace your toothbrush every three or four months. Dentists recommend this practice not as a prevention against contamination, but because toothbrushes wear out and become less effective at cleaning teeth.
* After a cold or other illness, some dentists advise replacing the toothbrush in case of contamination. Don’t clean your toothbrush in the microwave or dishwasher — this will damage the toothbrush.
If you have questions write to:
Ask the Dentist
P.O. Box 981