17:05 PM

Preventing Flu Starting with Your Toothbrush

With cold and flu season upon us, and all the concern about H1N1, almost daily we are reminded about washing our hands to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria. But it is just as important to pay attention to your toothbrush, where germs collect and can be spread.

With this in mind, I want to share a couple of helpful oral health tips that could prevent you from catching a cold this season or worse yet, the flu.

1. Replace your toothbrush often. Most people replace a toothbrush after four months of use, but it really should be changed every two to three months. In any case, get a new brush at the start of an illness and always replace your brush after a cold or flu – which most people don’t think to do.

2. Sterilize your toothbrush and you should do this once or twice a week – especially if someone in your home is sick. The microwave is one option. Put the toothbrush in a microwave-safe cup with 2-3 inches of water and bring the water to boil in the microwave for 3 to 4 minutes. If you are cleaning the brush for your electric toothbrush, submerge the entire brush in water, then bring the water to a boil for 3 to 4 minutes. (This is important to prevent sparks if your brush has a metal connector on it.) The kitchen dishwasher is another great way to sterilize a toothbrush. Just put the brush in the silverware basket when you run a load of dishes. Dishwashers are the nearest thing we have in our homes to the steam autoclave used in the dentist’s office. Cleaning your toothbrush is a good habit to adopt year-round, as there are plenty of germs and bacteria floating around the bathroom eager to cling to your toothbrush.

3. Store your toothbrush away from others in the house, use a toothbrush cover if possible, and always store it upright. Airborne bacteria can move easily from toothbrush to toothbrush, so any way you can limit contact with other toothbrushes is beneficial. Plain soap and water can be used to clean a toothbrush as well as our hands. Also, remember that the tube of toothpaste contacts the bristles so germs can spread from one person to another this way. When you’re sick, it is a good idea to use travel toothpaste or squirt the toothpaste onto your clean finger and then apply to your toothbrush.

4. Wash hands before and after brushing. Bacteria from your hands and food particles from your mouth are unavoidable, but washing your hands – before AND after – can help prevent oral inflammatory disease caused by these kinds of bacteria.

Good dental habits are very important to a healthy body. So take care this cold and flu season and please contact me if you have any questions about these or other oral health tips.