Experts Health News Releases

Do you really need to toss your toothbrush after the flu?

Used toothbrushes in hand with black trash

If you have recently fallen ill with a cold or the flu, you may be in a germ-ridding routine that includes wiping down and disinfecting household surfaces, washing sheets and towels, and tossing your toothbrush.

But is getting rid of your toothbrush really necessary after you’ve been sick?

“In most cases, the answer is no,” said Dr. Bhavik Desai, section director of Oral Medicine and associate professor in the Department of Oral Health and Diagnostic Sciences at The Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University.

“While flu viruses may survive on toothbrushes for up to three days after first exposure, you don’t have to throw out your toothbrush just because you’ve been sick.”

Desai said as long as they’re your own germs, you don’t have to worry. You won’t make yourself sick again if you use the same toothbrush after you’ve recovered. If you share your toothbrush with someone else, however, you could definitely make them sick.

Desai offered this advice for those suffering from the flu and other illnesses this season:

  • Dry mouth and bad taste are common occurrences for people suffering from flu, and can be worsened by medications used to manage flu symptoms. People suffering from flu should hydrate often. The use of alcohol-based mouthwashes should be avoided in favor of moisturizing and lubricating over-the-counter mouthwash products. Sugar free mints or gum may be used to address dry mouth and bad taste.
  • Never share your toothbrush with anyone under any circumstances.
  • Proper toothbrush hygiene should be maintained at all times, including during episodes of flu. People suffering from flu are encouraged to brush and floss their teeth, and rinse their mouths regularly.
  • When you have a cold or the flu, taking care of your body is your main priority, including your mouth. Sometimes, just brushing your teeth when you are not feeling well can make you feel better, at least for a short while.
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About the author

Christen Engel

Christen Engel is Associate Vice President of Communications at Augusta University. Contact her to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at cengel@augusta.edu.