Carlisle's Dental Health Blog

Should I Change My Toothbrush After Getting Sick?

You may have heard from your dentist or another source that it is important to change your toothbrush out after a cold. Some say that with frequently sick individuals a toothbrush is not necessary. We recommend you should change your toothbrush after getting sick, as a safety precaution no matter the severity of the disease. Even if the likelihood is low, germs attached to the brush will sit, multiply, and migrate to create a greater chance of you contracting something again. Brushes (and brush heads) are generally cheap, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Viral Vs. Bacterial Infections and Why It Matters When Brushing

Viral Infections:

Viruses need a host to replicate themselves using the host’s DNA. If they are unable to find a host, they are unable to survive. Viruses infect a person systematically, with the virus spreading throughout the body. Examples of viral infections include influenza, measles, AIDS, and COVID-19. Though it is possible, viral infections like the cold and flu are not likely to come back due to our bodies’ capabilities of developing antibodies to viruses. Your toothbrush is less likely to be contaminated after experiencing one of these infections. It is not impossible, however, as there are multiple strains of a virus circulating. 

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Bacterial Infections:

Bacterial infections are when your body becomes contaminated with harmful bacteria either on or inside you. These infections are different from viruses in that they are usually larger and able to multiply on their own. They are living organisms that are even able to make their own food and move on top of reproducing. Bacteria are usually localized to one specific area in the body. Examples include food poisoning, strep throat, and pneumonia. This type of infection is more likely to be able to reinfect you because bacteria can sit on your toothbrush for an extended period of time, even after a prescribed antibodies cycle is completed. 

One of the most important distinctions to remember between bacteria and viruses is that antibiotic drugs when used correctly will usually kill off bacteria but are unable to have an effect on viruses. 

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Toothbrush Tips: 

  • Avoid Keeping Toothbrushes In The Same Area – If sharing a bathroom with housemates or family members you want to keep toothbrushes in separate holders so that germs do not spread from one toothbrush to the other. 
  • Never Share A Toothbrush – Sharing a toothbrush with someone is asking to transfer their germs into your system and can easily lead to sickness. 
  • Change Your Toothbrush Every 3-4 Months – The ADA recommends replacing your toothbrush every couple months, since the bristles start deteriorating and the effectiveness of brushing gets worse. 
  • Don’t Try To Cleanse Your Brush With Mouthwash or Another Solution – This actually does nothing to protect against bacteria and could even make it more likely for them to spread depending on the solution. 


The Bottom Line: We highly recommend you change your toothbrush after a cold, even if it wasn’t bad, as a safety precaution. Contact our office if you have any questions!