Get ready to be skeeved—your family’s toothbrushes could be harboring some pretty nasty bacteria and viruses. Because they’re often stored close to the toilet and other germy, steamy bathroom spots, toothbrushes can become breeding grounds for staph bacteria, e. Coli and other pretty serious stuff, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). That means if anyone’s sick with a contagious virus like the flu or strep, there’s the chance they could re-infect themselves, or pass the bug around to others if you share toothbrushes, says the American Dental Association (ADA). The good news? There’s insufficient clinical evidence that brush bacteria causes infections and illnesses in healthy people.
Here’s what the ADA recommends:
- Rinse the toothbrush thoroughly after each use and let the brush air dry with the top uncovered.
- Replace your toothbrush or toothbrush head (for an electric one) every three months. Replace it after you or your kids are sick to prevent recontamination.
- Skip the fancy sanitizer. Studies haven’t shown any big health benefit to cleaning toothbrushes with a sanitizing machine or a soak in an antibacterial mouth rinse.
- Never share toothbrushes. Don’t let your daughter borrow yours the next time she forgets to pack hers on vacation.