Understanding How to Properly Store Your Child's Toothbrush to Reduce Bacterial Transfer

22 September 2015
 Categories: Dentist, Articles

If you have a young child, it is imperative that you start your child on a good oral health regimen as soon as possible. According to the CDC, 42% of all children have had cavities in their baby teeth, and 21% have had them in their permanent teeth. You may know some of the basics about oral care, but you may actually be using the oral care tools that you have in your home improperly to help your child clean his or her teeth. Keep reading to learn about the mistakes that you may be making with your child's toothbrush and how you can fix the issue.

Storing Toothbrushes Together

If you have a large family, then you likely store toothbrushes together in a cup or other type of object. You might know that you should keep your toothbrushes away from your toilet because it can spray fecal material and bacteria into the air where it can travel quite far from the toilet itself. While it is wise to keep the toothbrushes away from the toilet, you also should keep them away from each other.

Bacteria Transfer

Every mouth contains the same types of oral bacteria, and there are about 700 strains that can potentially live in the mouth. However, most people only have a few dozen strains living around the gums at a given time. Streptococcus mutans is the most common strain that can cause cavities to form in the mouth. Your child likely has some of these bacteria living on the teeth. However, if you spend a good deal of time helping your child brush, then there are likely not as many bacteria as there are in a larger adult mouth.

If you place your child's toothbrush next to your own, then some of these bacteria will transfer to your child's brush. Also, your own mouth may contain specific bacteria that can cause gingivitis. These bacteria can cause the same disorder in your child's mouth if they transfer over to their toothbrush.

You also should understand that it is almost impossible to get rid of one strain of bacteria completely. This means that your child will need to live with the oral bacteria that enter the mouth during childhood, and some of these bacteria are likely to be bad bacteria that can cause cavities and gingivitis. 

Proper Storage Methods

To make sure that the transfer of toothbrush bacteria is not an issue, purchase a toothbrush holder that has a number of individual slots that are far enough apart that the brushes cannot touch. You may also want to invest in holders that section off each brush, but make sure that the brushes are not sealed. This will create a warm and moist environment where bacteria are likely to breed on the toothbrushes.

Cleaning and Hanging

Once you have the right toothbrush holder, make sure your child's brush is rinsed under warm water for about 20 seconds, like you would do when you wash your hands. You can use soap on the brush as well, since a typical hand or dish soap contains fatty acids, detergents, antibacterial agents, water, and thickening agents that will not deteriorate the nylon that makes up your child's toothbrush bristles.

When you do the cleaning, use only about one-quarter of a pea sized amount of soap and use your fingers to gently massage the brush. Rinse thoroughly afterwards. Most soaps are not harmful to consume, but they can cause diarrhea if too much is swallowed. 

You also can soak the toothbrush in antibacterial mouthwash to keep it clean when it is not in use, and you can stick the tip of the brush in boiling water once or twice a week to disinfect it. After you clean the toothbrush, use a clean towel or washcloth to wipe away water and place the brush in the appropriate holder.

If you have further questions about oral health or how to properly maintain toothbrushes, consult clinics and resources like Dental Associates PC.