You don’t have to be a dentist to know that regular tooth-brushing is the cornerstone of good oral hygiene, but what the average person may not know is that the instrument he uses to clean his teeth may also need cleaning. A toothbrush’s job is to remove plaque and food particles from the teeth. As a result, it becomes contaminated with bacteria, blood, saliva, and even old toothpaste over time. The American Dental Association recommends that people change their toothbrush every three to four months (even if disinfected), but even this may not be enough to keep a toothbrush from becoming contaminated. And since they aren’t required to be sold in a sterile package, a toothbrush can already have bacteria on it right out of the box [sources: ADA, CDC].
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, “Limited research has suggested that even after being visibly rinsed clean, toothbrushes can remain contaminated with potentially pathogenic organisms.” Luckily, with proper cleaning and storage habits, your worries about keeping a clean toothbrush can be “brushed” aside. “Used to get colds all the time while traveling. Realized that my travel toothbrush had been sitting wet and damp in my “dirty” bag for days at a time allowing whatever to fester and grow. Started using coffee maker or microwave in my hotels to boil water and put my tooth brush in before using to sterilize and my colds, etc., were no more.”
Also, sanitizing your travel toothbrush holder can help prevent illness. When you are traveling, you often must place a damp toothbrush back into the holder, creating a prime breeding ground for germs and bacteria. Quickly cleaning and sanitizing both the holder and the toothbrush throughout your trips and again before storing them until the next time you travel ensures they remain germ-free. You don’t necessarily have to go out and buy products specifically for disinfecting a toothbrush. Soaking a toothbrush in an antiseptic mouthwash, freezing or boiling the toothbrush or putting it in an automatic dishwasher are all ways in which a toothbrush can be cleaned without buying specialized products
Rinse the toothbrush and toothbrush holder in hot tap water until all of the remaining toothpaste and toothpaste scum is rinsed off. Check that the inside of the toothbrush holder is well-rinsed, especially around the hinge and closure.
Fill a small cup with antibacterial mouthwash. Place the toothbrush holder inside the mouthwash for 30 seconds to sanitize it, then rinse it in cool water. Dip the toothbrush in the mouthwash and swish it around for 30 seconds, then rinse.
Shake off as much water from the toothbrush and toothbrush holder as possible. Let the toothbrush dry completely before storing it back in the holder if you have time or will not be traveling farther that day.
Place the toothbrush in the holder and latch the holder shut. Rinse the toothbrush with hot water again immediately prior to brushing your teeth, then repeat the sanitation procedure before storing it again. Store your toothbrush at least 2 feet (0.61 m) from the toilet. When you flush, tiny water particles containing fecal matter escape the toilet and may land on your toothbrush. While there is insufficient evidence that these trace amounts of bacteria cause illness, it is best to be safe.