Do You Really Need to Change Your Toothbrush After Being Sick?

stuffed animals in bed sick thermometer

You’ve probably heard it before: after being sick, change your sheets, disinfect surfaces, throw out those tissues, and change your toothbrush. You don’t want to reinfect yourself with germs that are still hanging around after an illness so that all sounds sensible. But is that last one really necessary? Let’s take a closer look.

The Case for Replacement

Since we’re all thinking it, let’s get the first reason out of the way: Mom told us to do it, so we’ve gone along with it all these years! She’s never told us why, though, other than a need to get rid of germs. Colgate and Oral-B both say that you should replace your toothbrush after an illness like the flu or a cold because of the risk of germs hiding in bristles leading to reinfection. But since we’re still living in the same space where we were just holed up on the couch sick all weekend, do we really think we’re magically escaping the germs with a bit of disinfectant and some laundry?

The Case for Keeping

If you’re regularly replacing your toothbrush anyway and it’s not time to replace it just yet, an illness may not be a reason to rush to the store to buy a new one. When you get sick, your body fights off that specific illness by developing antibodies, and you won’t reinfect yourself with that same illness.

The American Dental Association doesn’t have much to say about the question and never specifically states that you should replace your toothbrush after an illness. It does acknowledge that bacteria on toothbrushes is very common, and that’s why we recommend regular replacement.

So When Should You Replace Your Toothbrush?

Dr. Desai follows the general recommendation of replacing a toothbrush every 3-4 months. When you brush, you transfer bacteria from your toothbrush to your mouth and vice versa. Keeping that toothbrush around much longer than a few months just isn’t sanitary. If you have a compromised immune system or other health issues, we may recommend more frequent replacement, but we would be happy to discuss your specific needs at your next appointment. Call us today to schedule!