You rely on it to promote oral health — but a toothbrush that is not properly maintained may house bacteria and viruses that transmit colds, flu, cold sores and other ailments. What to do for your toothbrush…

  • Give it a good home. When several toothbrushes are jumbled together, germs can migrate from brush to brush — so use a holder that keeps toothbrushes upright and separate. Place the holder at least six feet from the toilet — water particles can travel several feet with each flush. (Better yet, close the toilet lid before flushing.)
  • Keep it clean. Rinse the toothbrush well with running water after each use. Swish the bristles once daily in an antiseptic mouthwash that contains alcohol — and once a week, soak the toothbrush in the mouthwash for five minutes. Do not put toothbrushes in the microwave or dishwasher — high heat damages bristles.
  • Dry it off. Wet bristles are a breeding ground for bacteria. Dry your brush completely between uses, using a clean towel or blow-dryer on low heat or by leaving it exposed to air in a well-ventilated place. If you store your toothbrush in a medicine cabinet or in a toothbrush case or cover (even one labeled “antibacterial”), first dry it thoroughly.
  • Replace it regularly. Get a new toothbrush whenever bristles look frayed or splayed — or at least every three months. If you get sick, replace your toothbrush when you are well again so you don’t reinfect yourself.