From the time we are able to securely hold a toothbrush in our hand we are taught by our parents how to brush our teeth. If we couldn’t perform the task very well our parents would brush our teeth for us to ensure the healthiness of our teeth and gums. Afterwards, our toothbrush may have been placed alongside those of our siblings or even our parents in an open container where a bacterium collects on its bristles.
One has to marvel at the toothbrush. The first toothbrush that resembles what we use today had its beginnings in China in the late 1400s. It was comprised of stiff hairs from a hog’s neck and attached to a bamboo stick. Now, soft bristles on the “head” of a handle used along with toothpaste to brush off plaque and massage our gums. For the most part, it seems the toothbrush is only used to eliminate leftover food from teeth. However, it is a major deterrent of gingivitis (gum disease), the prevention of cavities and periodontal disease which is a cause of at least one-third of adult tooth loss.
Many dentists believe that soft-bristled toothbrushes are the most effective to use since the firmer bristles can damage tooth enamel and irritate the gums. In fact, the tips of hard bristles are like sharp tips that may cause nicks in the gum, allowing bacteria to enter the bloodstream. The soft bristles are considered the most safe and comfortable especially with consideration given to how vigorously you brush your teeth.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, even after brushing and then rinsing your toothbrush contaminated and potentially pathogenic organisms remain on the bristles. We’ve all had lessons on how to brush our teeth, but very few lessons in toothbrush cleaning. Here are some suggestions on how to clean and take care of your toothbrush:
• If you keep your toothbrush in a toothbrush protector, ensure it is dry before using the toothbrush protector. Failure to do so may lead to the development of mold on the bristles. Use a toothbrush holder that has holes. This will help with ventilation to prevent mold.
• Wash your hands before handling your toothbrush.
• Limit the number of brushes you keep in an open container because they rub together and may spread germs.
• Wash your toothbrush before and after every use by holding it under running water and rubbing your thumb over it forcefully for five to ten seconds.
• Deep clean your toothbrush by occasionally placing it in the top rack (any other location, it may melt) of your dishwasher using your normal dishwasher soap.
• Be mindful to replace your toothbrush every three to four months, this pertains to electric brushes also.
• Always use toothpaste; it helps in keeping your brush clean.
• To disinfect your toothbrush, you can store it in a 3% Hydrogen Peroxide solution (change daily, because it turns into water in a matter of hours).
• In a small cup place your toothbrush and an alcohol based mouthwash, and stir for about thirty seconds. The alcohol in the mouthwash will kill off most bacteria.
• Consider purchasing a UV (Ultraviolet light) toothbrush cleaner. It is safe and automatically shuts off once the cleaning mode is complete.
Toothbrush cleaning is something we sometimes take for granted. We use it on a daily basis and place it back in its container not giving a thought to the amount of bacteria floating around in our residence and then how much of it actually finds a place on our exposed toothbrush. These tips not only provide helpful information, but will make you more cognizant on the importance of toothbrush cleaning and how your toothbrush can affect your overall heath more than you realize.