Readers ask, we answer: Can I get sick from my toothbrush?

Aidan asks:

"Can I get sick from my toothbrush?"

Have a question you’d like us to answer? Send it to, and it could be featured in an upcoming issue.

Hi, Aidan! Although there’s no evidence that your toothbrush can make you sick, it makes sense to keep it clean and effective for your oral hygiene regimen. In using your toothbrush to remove plaque and soft debris from your mouth, it can become contaminated by bacteria, blood, saliva, oral debris and toothpaste, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s why you should clean your toothbrush, store it properly and make sure it isn’t worn out.


How to maintain your toothbrush

Here are five ways to keep your toothbrush at its best:

1. Rinse your toothbrush thoroughly with tap water before and after you brush.

Remove toothpaste out of the bristles so that the brush is completely clean. There is no need to use the dishwasher, microwave or ultraviolet light for sanitizing it, as this may damage your toothbrush, according to the CDC. The agency also recommends against soaking your toothbrush in a disinfecting solution or in mouthwash, as this may spread infection. Try to get all the toothpaste out of the bristles so the brush is completely clean.

2. Don’t share your toothbrush.

Toothbrushes can have germs on them, even after rinsing, so there is a risk for infection, especially for people with immune suppression.

3. Store your toothbrush upright and so that it doesn't touch other brushes.

Let it air dry. If your toothbrush is covered up in a drawer or stored in a container, bacteria is more likely to grow on it due to poor air flow around it.Let it air dry. Bacteria is more likely to grow on your brush if it is in a drawer or holder without good air flow.

4. Keep your toothbrush at least 6 feet away from the toilet.

And always close the lid before flushing.  This is to prevent fecal contamination in a shared bathroom.

5. Replace your toothbrush every 3 months or when the bristles become frayed.

If your toothbrush is worn, it’ll be less effective in cleaning tooth surfaces and gum lines.


Take these steps to keep your toothbrush effective. Using it twice a day, for two minutes, can help preserve your oral health, and each of us has a toothbrushing style of our own.