Should You Change Your Toothbrush After Getting Sick?

Group of toothbrushes side by side

You may have heard from your dentist that it’s important to change your toothbrush after fighting a cold or another sickness. We recommend that you do change your toothbrush after getting sick, as a safety precaution no matter the severity of the illness. 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.


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. 


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. 


The Bottom Line: We highly recommend you change your toothbrush after a cold, even if it wasn’t bad, as a safety precaution. You should also change your toothbrush every 3-4 months. The ADA recommends replacing your toothbrush every couple of months since the bristles start deteriorating and the effectiveness of brushing gets worse. Contact our office if you have any questions!

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