If dogs are man’s best friend, then toothbrushes are teeth’s local sidekick. And just like you would do with your dog, caring for toothbrushes is necessary. Keeping those bristles clean will ultimately help keep teeth cleaner and brighter as well. Here are a few guidelines we recommend to care for toothbrushes.

Daily care and storage

After each use make sure to thoroughly rinse off the brush with water to remove any excess debris. Store the brush standing upright to air-dry, to keep it separated from other brushes and avoid cross contamination. Also avoid covering toothbrushes or storing them long-term in airtight containers. A storage pack for traveling is still recommended, but overnight storage in a moist environment is a potent environment for bacterial growth.

Long-term care

The American Dental Association recommends replacing brushes at least every three to four months, or even earlier if the bristles start to fray. Many times children’s brushes need to be replaced more often than adult’s brushes. Trying out daily single-use toothbrush might be worth a shot as well, but these can be costly in the long-run.

Be wary of cleaning methods

While there are additional methods of cleaning toothbrushes such as soaking in antibacterial mouthwash or running it through the dishwater, there is little evidence to back up effectiveness of these efforts. But there is nothing wrong with giving new methods a try. Use a product cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), because products that make certain claims have to go through the FDA wringer. For example, a product that “sanitizes” a toothbrush kills 99.9% percent of bacteria, while a product that “sterilizes” kills 100% of bacteria. As of right now, there are no commercially available products that sterilize a toothbrush. But not to worry. Simple cleaning and replacing toothbrushes every few months is more than enough to avoid bacteria.