Oral & Vision Health Blog

Can Your Toothbrush Make You Sick?

What You Need to Know to Stay Healthy
It's no surprise that toothbrushes carry germs on them since they are used in your mouth, which is home to any sickness or virus that you carry. Researchers have found up to 70 percent of toothbrushes carry bacteria and a single toothbrush can contain up to 1.2 million bacteria. But if you have so many bacteria living on your toothbrush, why aren't you sick all the time? Can your toothbrush really make you sick?

In short, yes. Your toothbrush can make you sick. You should replace your toothbrush to prevent re-contaminating yourself after you've recovered from the flu or other illness. But replacing your toothbrush after every illness isn't the only way to prevent your toothbrush from causing you harm. Here are some other things to consider about your toothbrush: 

  • Storage: Storing your toothbrush in a closed container is a breeding ground for mold growth. Your toothbrush needs to be aired out so that it can fully dry. If you must store it in a case, make sure it has had a chance to completely dry before you put on the cap.
  • Placement: Your air drying toothbrush should be away from anything that could contaminate it including the toilet and sinks. Gross fact: your toilet sprays more than toilet water when it flushes. According to Charles Gerba, Ph.D., professor, Microbiology & Environmental Sciences, University of Arizona College of Public Health, bacteria and viruses falling from toilet spray “remain airborne long enough to settle on surfaces throughout the bathroom.” Sinks are less unpleasant, but germs being washed down the sink can also spray on your toothbrush if it's sitting nearby. Find a spot in the bathroom that is far, far away from your toilet and sinks, even if it means taking a few extra steps in the morning.
  • Choose the right toothpaste: Use toothpaste that combats germs to keep those nasty bacteria away from your toothbrush altogether. 
  • Never share: When it comes to toothbrushes, sharing is not caring. Sometimes family members consider their toothbrushes to be fair game for sharing (especially children). Make sure every family member has his/her own toothbrush, and replace toothbrushes if they accidentally get swapped or if they fall on the floor.
  • Use hot water: Hot water kills off germs better than cold water, so use it to rinse your toothbrush before and after brushing to keep germs at bay.

The bottom line is that yes, your toothbrush can make you sick depending on how it and where it is stored and how long you used it. The good news is that you can lower your risk by taking the above precautions.

Want to know more? Download our free infographic, "Keeping a Clean Toothbrush" below.

Clean Toothbrush Infographic: Download Ways to Keep Your Toothbrush Clean