You don't have to throw away a toothbrush if you've been sick
- Regardless of whether or not you're sick, you should replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.
- And even if you've recently had an illness, it's unlikely that you will reinfect yourself from a toothbrush unless you have are immunocompromised.
- But if someone in your household is sick, be sure that your toothbrushes don't touch or else both should be thrown away.
- This article was medically reviewed by John T. Grbic, DMD, professor of dental medicine at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine.
- For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
You should replace your toothbrush every three or four months, according to the American Dental Association, because it becomes less effective at removing plaque over time.
While it is certainly true that germs can collect on your toothbrush, you might not need to replace it after you've been sick.
Should you throw away your toothbrush after you're sick?
If you've been sick, it's not urgent that you replace your toothbrush more often than is typically recommended.
That's because there isn't any evidence that you can reinfect yourself with an illness from the germs on your toothbrush, says Hamad R. Hamad, DDS, who practices general dentistry in Wisconsin. It's unlikely, he says, unless you have major immune system deficiencies.
However, if you share a bathroom with other people, and there's a chance your toothbrushes might come into contact with each other, you should probably throw it away.
"People should not share a toothbrush or have their brushes touching," Hamad says. Overall, it's a good idea to store your toothbrush separately from family members, especially if you're sick.
In fact, a 2012 research review published in Nursing Research and Practice concluded that contamination of toothbrushes with germs is widespread and common, whether or not the users are healthy or sick.
And while there was no established link that confirmed these germs could make people sick, researchers did express concerns that it was possible for bacteria on toothbrushes to result in an infection.
A wide range of germs were found in the study, including E. coli, staphylococcus aureus, and other disease-causing bacteria. These germs collect during use, from the storage container used to hold the toothbrush, and from the environment where they're kept.
Why you should replace your toothbrush every three months
Overall, your toothbrush should be replaced every three to four months. This is true both if you've been healthy or if you've had a contagious illness.
"Over time the bristles become frayed," explains Hamad. "They are more likely to harbour bacteria and become less effective at mechanical debridement."
Mechanical debridement is the removal of plaque on your teeth. A 2018 study in The International Journal of Dental Hygiene also found that toothbrushes are less effective at removing this plaque as they wear out from use over time.
There are a few exceptions to the three-month replacement rule. Hamad suggests you go ahead and replace your toothbrush if you drop it in the toilet, it rolls under the counter, or you find mold anywhere in your bathroom.
To prevent germs, toothbrushes should be cleaned daily, which can be simply done by rinsing it thoroughly with water after use and setting it upright to dry. If you'd like to clean your toothbrush further, you can disinfect it with a few common solutions, such as antiseptic mouthwash or 3% hydrogen peroxide.
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