Microbes on toothbrush come from your mouth and not the toilet

Microbes that stick to your toothbrush reflect those in your mouth and not your toilet, a new study has foundMicrobes that stick to your toothbrush reflect those in your mouth and not your toilet, a new study has found. 

Researchers discovered that the microbes living in used toothbrush bristles matched those usually found inside the mouth and on skin.

And this was found to be true regardless of where toothbrushes were being stored. This included those both stored away in bathroom cabinets and out in the open on the sink.

Toilet aerosols

Erica Hartmann was the study’s lead author and carried it out after hearing worries that flushing a toilet may generate aerosol particles.

‘I’m not saying that you can’t get toilet aerosols on your toothbrush when you flush the toilet,’ she said.

‘But, based on what we saw in our study, the overwhelming majority of microbes on your toothbrush probably came from your mouth.’

The team – from Northwestern University – collected the data by asking participants to mail their used toothbrushes along with corresponding data.

Normal microbes

In addition, they found that those with better oral hygiene had toothbrushes with less diverse microbial communities. They also had slightly more antimicrobial-resistant genes.

Hartmann concludes these microbes were likely from air or dust in the bathroom, and did not match the human body. However, she emphasises that it is perfectly normal to have these living on one’s toothbrush.

As a result, she says regular toothpaste is sufficient for the majority.

‘If you practise good oral hygiene, then your toothbrush also will be relatively clean,’ she said.

‘But it’s a small difference. It’s not like people who regularly floss, brush and use mouthwash have no microbes and those who don’t have tons. There’s just a bit less diversity on toothbrushes from people who do all those things.’

You can read the full study here.


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