The coronavirus can easily spread in a multitude of ways, which means you should be taking every measure you can to protect yourself from infection. And while you may think you're doing everything possible already, recent research is finding new ways to stay safe. According to a new study, one hygiene habit could actually protect you from COVID: disinfecting your toothbrush. Read on to find out how this coronavirus protection measure works, and for more ways to stay healthy, Dr. Fauci Says You Need One of These at Home to Avoid COVID.
You should disinfect your toothbrush because high amounts of COVID live in your mouth.
Brazilian researchers published their findings on how non-disinfected toothbrushes could enable coronavirus spread in The Journal of Infectious Diseases in December. In the study, researchers concluded that toothbrushes "act as reservoirs for microorganisms, favoring the transmission of diseases in heathy and sick individuals." This is especially concerning during the COVID pandemic because an earlier May study found that high viral loads of coronavirus can be found in the saliva, nasopharynx, and oropharynx—even in asymptomatic patients.
"Thus, disinfection of toothbrushes and hygiene of the oral cavity are important to control the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, especially in asymptomatic individuals or in those who await the test result for COVID-19," the researchers of the December study explained. And for more on coronavirus and your mouth, If You Notice This in Your Mouth, You Could Have COVID, Experts Warn.
You can disinfect your toothbrush in store-bought mouthwash.
The researchers also referenced another study, published July 2020 in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, which found that certain mouthwashes could actually reduce the viral load of coronavirus in saliva and transmission. According to this study, your mouthwash has to be an antiseptic solution containing ethanol and essential oils, like Listerine Cool Mint.
Disinfecting toothbrushes in this solution may help slow the spread of COVID, according to the researchers of the December study. However, while the previous study found that mouthwash only needed to be held in the mouth for 30 seconds to reduce the viral load present, these researchers say that a toothbrush needs to be immersed in the solution for 20 minutes, as toothbrushes are able to hold on to viral loads longer "due to the presence of bristles and moisture." And for more guidance on staying safe from COVID, If You Have This Mask, Get a New One Now, Experts Say.
The researchers laid out a six-step process to best disinfect your toothbrush.
Just dipping your toothbrush in a mouthwash solution isn't going to completely protect you from COVID. Instead, the researchers laid out six steps you should consider following when completing this hygiene task.
The first thing you need to do before touching your toothbrush is to wash your hands with soap and water or disinfect them with hand sanitizer that is at least 70 percent alcohol-based. After that, you can disinfect your toothbrush handle with 70 percent alcohol for one minute. Once those two steps are done, you can brush your teeth. When you are done brushing, you should wash the brush and disinfect the handle with 70 percent alcohol again for one minute. Your mouthwash solution comes next, and you should leave only your brush head immersed in this for 20 minutes. After that, you should let your brush dry and then, preferably, store it away from others. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
And if you've had COVID, you should throw your toothbrush away.
Anthony Cardillo, MD, an ER specialist and CEO of Mend Urgent Care in Los Angeles, told ABC that this study should be looked at closely by households with multiple people sharing one bathroom. Toothbrushes in a cup or container on the bathroom counter can definitely aid in "transmitting the virus" between members of the home if someone is infected, even if they are asymptomatic.
If you know you have COVID, Cardillo says you should keep your toothbrush in a separate area, while disinfecting it regularly. Once you're done with your infection, "you should really get rid of that toothbrush and use a fresh, brand new one," he says. And if think you may have had the virus, If You Have This Subtle Symptom, You Might Have Already Had COVID.