There isn’t much science on the age old dilemma of the “right” way to brush your teeth. Sure, plenty of people have thoughts or opinions on why you should or shouldn’t wet your toothbrush before brushing your teeth, and especially on the internet, we can be quite vocal about our preferences.
Some people argue that by wetting your toothpaste before brushing, you are creating extra foam to get into and clean all those hard-to-reach crevices in your mouth. Others claim that their dentists advised against this and that the water will reduce the toothpaste’s effectiveness. I myself am part of a third group, preferring to wet my toothbrush before putting toothpaste on the bristles at all. These can just be personal preferences, but each method has some impact on the cleanliness of your teeth after each brush.
Is there a “best way” to keep your teeth clean?
Confirmed in a Myth Busters experiment, if you leave your toothbrush on the bathroom counter, all it takes is one toilet flush for tainted water droplets and fecal matter to contaminate it. Bacteria can spread to anything within a twenty foot radius of the toilet. Ever since I was a little kid, this fact has traumatized me. By rinsing my toothbrush before putting the toothpaste on it, I try to avoid the disgusting mental image of what may or may not be going into my mouth.
Unfortunately, this method is not as effective as one might hope. It’s nearly impossible to escape the germs, regardless of when or whether you rinse off your toothbrush before use. One possible solution is to flush with the toilet lid down and avoid making a choice as to your toothbrushing habits all together. However, in college most dorm restrooms lack this feature.
Another possibility is to rinse your toothbrush in mouthwash before each use. Sounds like a good idea. But in this study, scientists found that there were essentially no differences between toothbrush cleaning practices to prevent contamination. “Using a toothbrush cover doesn’t protect a toothbrush from bacterial growth, but actually creates an environment where bacteria are better suited to grow by keeping the bristles moist and not allowing the head of the toothbrush to dry out between uses,” explains study author Lauren Aber. She suggests that regardless of your habits, you should replace your toothbrush about every 3 months.
In conclusion, I do stand behind my earlier opinion: you SHOULD rinse your toothbrush thoroughly before each use. There may not be a huge benefit to making this a habit, but all it will cost you is a bit of tap water and probably ten extra seconds to your morning or nighttime routine.