You give your patients tips on how to properly brush their teeth, but do you ever counsel them on how to properly keep their toothbrushes clean? After all, what is the point of brushing with a dirty, germy toothbrush? Our mouths are home to millions of germs, including those living in the plaque on our teeth. It is no surprise that these germs can collect on our toothbrush bristles.
While the germs on a toothbrush generally may not cause health problems, regularly cleaning a toothbrush, storing it properly, and replacing it when necessary are important for maintaining good oral hygiene.
Here are some Spring Cleaning tips that you can share with your patients on how to prevent the spread of germs to and from their toothbrushes.
Wash your hands before brushing your teeth.
Right now we are all washing our hands all day every day trying to prevent the spread of germs. It is especially important to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds right before touching your toothbrush.
Your hands and fingernails are the main vehicles of transmission for bacteria and viruses, so washing your hands before brushing will help stop the spread of germs to and from your handle, bristles and/or your mouth.
Rinse your toothbrush after every use.
You should thoroughly rinse your toothbrush with hot water after every use to remove any food particles, plaque debris, or toothpaste, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
Store your toothbrush properly.
After rinsing, it is ideal to store your toothbrush in an upright position and allow it to air-dry. The bacteria that live on your toothbrush are mostly anaerobic, meaning they die in the presence of oxygen, so air-drying will kill most of the bacteria. A toothbrush holder or cup on the counter works great. Suction toothbrushes are also a good solution. That said, be mindful that your toothbrush is not close to the toilet. Toilet plumes from flushing can project germs into the air.
It is not ideal to store toothbrushes in a closed container or drawer where germs can flourish. The bristles will dry better in open air.
Lastly, avoid storing multiple toothbrushes close together. Germs can spread with contact. It is best if toothbrushes are ‘socially distanced’ (hee hee!) and do not touch each other to avoid the spread of germs. The handles of bamboo toothbrushes are antibacterial which can aid in preventing germ transmission, but the bristles are equally susceptible.
Disinfect your toothbrush when necessary.
It isn’t necessary to disinfect your toothbrush regularly. However, if you want to take extra precaution (maybe you just traveled or maybe it just looks dirty), you can disinfect your toothbrush.
Antiseptic mouthwash contains various active ingredients, such as alcohol, menthol, and eucalyptol, which can kill bacteria. Recommend your preferred mouthwash to your patients! Hydrogen peroxide is an effective disinfectant that can destroy essential components of germ cells and deactivate a wide range of microorganisms. White vinegar is an excellent natural disinfecting agent. A couple teaspoons of baking soda in a cup of water is also a good natural alternative for cleaning a toothbrush.
Patient instructions for disinfecting (when necessary):
- Choose a cleaning solution (above).
- Poor the solution into a cup. Be sure you have enough liquid to cover the head of the toothbrush.
- Vigorously swirl the brush head in the liquid solution for 30-60 seconds.
- Rinse the bristles under the faucet.
- Store in an upright position to dry.
UV light sanitation is a high-end means to disinfecting a toothbrush, but not necessarily more effective than the simple cleaning methods above.
Never put a toothbrush in a dishwasher or microwave as the bristles may be compromised, thereby making them less effective at cleaning the surface of the teeth.
Know when to replace your toothbrush.
Toothbrushes should be replaced approximately every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles become matted or frayed, according to the ADA. Once the bristles appear worn, they are no longer effectively cleaning.
Patients should also replace their toothbrush after they’ve been sick with common illnesses like the cold or flu. It’s also a good idea to replace your toothbrush after mouth sores. Toothbrush replacement can help prevent re-infection.
Cleaning and maintenance of toothbrushes is super important and something your patients may not think about. Providing fun facts and tips on toothbrush cleaning is a good way to distract an anxious patient during an examination. Encourage patients to stop by your dental practice anytime for a new toothbrush! Let them know that they don’t have to wait for their next checkup to get a new toothbrush. This is a great way to build patient trust and loyalty. Be sure to promote your practice on the toothbrushes you distribute. Plus, everyone likes a new toothbrush.
Source: Insider.com, ADA.com