DISCLOSURE: Noelle Copeland RDH is the oral care specialist and dental consultant to the Brilliant and Baby Buddy oral care lines through Compac Industries. See terms below.
This is a great question and one I wish more people would ask. Think about this, your toothbrush goes inside your mouth… and what’s inside your mouth? Germs! Leftover food! Bacteria! And sometimes viruses and fungus. When you say it out loud like that it sounds really gross! Well you know what else is gross? The way some people take care of their toothbrushes or should I say the way some people don’t take care of their toothbrushes.
The sanitary way…What you SHOULD do…
- Before starting your oral care routine, start with clean hands, washing them with warm soapy water.
- Take your toothbrush and wet the bristles with warm water to soften them.
- Place a small amount of tooth gel onto the bristles and begin to brush your teeth. You don’t need a long swirly slab of gel. A pea-sized amount is plenty.
- Spit out saliva and tooth gel build up every 30 seconds as you brush while cleaning your teeth and gums.
- When you have completed at least 2 minutes of brushing, spit and rinse your mouth well.
- Now rinse the toothbrush bristles with warm water while using a clean thumb to apply a little pressure, while rubbing against the bristles, helping to dislodge any stuck food, stain or debris.
- Also be sure to clean the brush handle of any dripped paste. This keeps paste build up at bay so the handle doesn’t get crusty spots that trap germs.
- Tap off excess water on the edge of the sink, removing as much as you can.
- Store toothbrush upright, not lying down, either inside of a cabinet or underneath the sink in a closed cabinet. Be sure that air can fully circulate around the brush head so that it can completely air dry, you don’t want the bristles to retain any moisture.
- Replace your toothbrush at least every 3 months or sooner if needed. Always replace your toothbrush after recovering from an illness.
The unsanitary way…. What you should NOT DO
- Don’t bite, suck, chew, or gnaw on your toothbrush, this damages the bristles and causes micro tears and abrasions that can trap and harbor more bacteria into the fibers of the brush and the handle.
- Don’t store your toothbrush on the counter of your bathroom if possible. Your toothbrush is exposed to bathroom air and the elements that float around in the air of a bathroom, like the spray from a flushed toilet, called toilet plume, or the mist from an air freshener or cleaning product.
- Don’t let your toothbrush sit in a puddle of water on the side of the sink, remember it has to air dry, upright.
- Don’t leave stain, food, or toothpaste in the bristles.
- Don’t share your toothbrush with anyone, even your significant other and especially not your children. Whatever bacteria or viruses are in your mouth or on your toothbrush are easily transferred to someone else from a toothbrush.
- Don’t let your toothbrush touch someone else’s toothbrush when put away for drying. Each should have its own slot or holder.
- Make sure the toothbrush holder stays clean. If it’s a cup, regularly change it out and run it through the dishwasher.
- Don’t keep a toothbrush for too long, replace your toothbrush at least every 3 months.
- Do not keep a brush head covered with a travel cap or inside a travel case. Air should be able to circulate freely and easily on a daily basis. Travel containers are meant for traveling and not designed for everyday use.
Should you sanitize your toothbrush?
A toothbrush is not sterile and cannot become sterile and I think people confuse sanitize with sterilized. So that’s one reason I get asked this question a lot and it bears some needed explanation. So thats the first thing to comprehend, the second thing to comprehend is that keeping your toothbrush clean on a daily basis as I outlined above is a sanitizing process, so sanitizing your toothbrush is something you should do everyday, with a regular, clean, oral care routine.
Sanitizing refers to the action of reducing microorganism and bacteria exposure down to a safe level, this is done by removing potential contaminants, (like food, paste, or toilet flume exposure spray) that can sit on toothbrush bristles and proliferate.
In all actuality, you need to sanitize your toothbrush everyday by following the directions under “The sanitary way…What you SHOULD do” above.
Extra ways to keep it clean
However, If you need a little extra cleaning help- say you just bought a more expensive toothbrush and you accidentally dropped it on the floor or somehow contaminated it unintentionally some other way.
- You may soak the brush head in a mug of hot water, baking soda, and vinegar for 10-15 minutes and this will add extra cleansing support instead of throwing away an almost new toothbrush.
- Use a little mouthwash as a soaking solution for the brush head, again, for 10-15 minutes and only on occasion, not on a daily basis.
It stands to be said that any solution you use to soak anything that goes into your mouth should be discarded after each individual use, never reuse a soaking solution for multiple sessions. Keep in mind that this may damage the bristles of your toothbrush, depending on the design and quality of the bristles, so use at your own risk.
What does the American Dental Association say?
The ADA says “There is insufficient clinical evidence to support that bacterial growth on toothbrushes will lead to specific adverse oral or systemic health effects. Read more about that here https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/toothbrushes
- However…. Some of us like to be “EXTRA”, so following the guidelines above are not only considered safe but recommended by many in the oral care industry when needed.
Special Needs advice
If you have a special needs child or adult in your life, I realize the information above can be overwhelming to adhere to. You probably use a much more expensive specialty toothbrush or some other version of the best toothbrush for kids or adults that you can get your hands on.
Making their oral care regular and routine is usually the number one hurdle in special needs oral care. So start there and ask for help. There is a struggle often encountered between the caretaker performing the oral care and the special needs person wanting to do their own oral care. When it comes to these challenges the best strategy is to “Do Your Best” and don’t worry about what you can’t do.
I do recommend for you to have a close relationship with your loved ones dental hygienist and dentist, because they will be more than happy to come alongside you in finding the best way to safely and hygienically perform oral care at home.
Special needs oral care routines often struggle with:
- The Toothpaste: They either love it or they hate it. If they love it, use it, but be sure it’s monitored and you are the one dosing it out in small amounts and that they are spitting out as much of it as they possibly can. If they hate it, don’t use it. Wet the bristles with warm water and brush without it. However, they will most likely need some other form of plaque and fluoride control if you cannot use toothpaste. Swabs around the mouth with fluoride or xylitol containing mouth rinse may be used, or other at home treatments can be used as prescribed by your dental professional. If this is something you struggle with, talk to your dentist about it today.
- The Toothbrush bristles: If sensory stimulation is a hurdle for your homecare routine then starting out with extra fine bristles is usually best. Once your loved one has adapted to the extra fine bristled toothbrush being used daily, then you can graduate to the next level of fineness, most likely a sensitive or special soft toothbrush and repeat the process until you can acclimate your loved one to the feeling and stimulation of a regular soft toothbrush. This may not always be possible but it should be at least “attempted”. Using anything harder than a soft toothbrush is not recommended.
If your special needs loved one can perform their own oral care you still want to be sure you are directly supervising them and watching their routine. This allows you to correct any activities that may adversely contaminate the oral environment or the toothbrush itself and helps prevent any accidental injury.
Oral care is important for everyone! Talk to your dental professional about any challenges you may encounter or questions you may have and remember to brush Brilliant®.
At Brilliant Oral Care, we strive to offer lifetime care for Baby Gums through Seniors Gums with products that encourage a lifetime of healthy smiles. Brilliant Toothbrushes have a round head featuring all around bristles to offer an unparalleled cleaning of the teeth, tongue, gums, and cheeks, without the sharp bristles that far too many have had to endure.
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Noelle Copeland RDH is an Oral Care Specialist and Dental Consultant who provides content for Brilliant Oral Care and Baby Buddy.