Do Toothbrush Sanitizers Really Work?
Various products pledge to sanitize your toothbrush. Some say they kill bacteria with heat or ultraviolet light, germ-killing sprays, or rinses. Others have built-in antibacterial bristles.
There's evidence that at least some of these products do effectively kill germs. But there's no real proof that using any toothbrush sanitizer will reduce your risk of getting sick.
If you choose to use one of these products, make sure that it has been reviewed by the FDA, which checks the validity of consumer health product marketing claims.
Remember that even the best products won't kill all the germs on your toothbrush. At best, they'll kill 99.9% of the germs.
That means if you have one million bacteria on your toothbrush to start, you'll still have about 1,000 remaining when you're finished sanitizing, Harms says.
Some web sites recommend putting your toothbrush into the microwave oven or dishwasher to sanitize it. Although these methods will kill some of the bacteria, they will probably damage your toothbrush in the process. It's better to just buy disposable brushes and throw them out.
When to Toss Your Toothbrush
The best way to limit the bacteria on your toothbrush is to replace it on a regular basis.
The American Dental Association recommends throwing out your toothbrush every three to four months. If the bristles become frayed, you're sick, or you have a weak immune system, throw it out even more often. If you use an electric toothbrush, throw out the head as often as you'd discard a disposable toothbrush.
Every time you're tempted to skip brushing and flossing your teeth, remember how many bacteria lurk in your mouth – and what they can do.
"It's bacteria that cause gum disease, and decay, and bad breath," Harms says. "Make sure you're brushing and flossing as often as possible to eliminate some of those bacteria." Rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash before or after brushing can also help reduce plaque-causing bacteria that can lead to gingivitis, an early, mild form of gum disease.