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Vincent Iannelli, M.D.

Should you throw away your toothbrush after having strep throat?

By May 4, 2013

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When storing multiple toothbrushes in the same cup, don't let them touch each other. - Photo by Mike WillisHave you ever been told to throw out your children's toothbrush after they have had strep throat?

The theory behind getting a new toothbrush is that strep could contaminate their toothbrush and they would get reinfected once they finished their antibiotics. If you had never heard of this, are you going to start throwing away your children's toothbrush when they have strep now, or after a bout with a cold virus or the flu?

While this is not an uncommon practice, there isn't exactly any good research to suggest that any of us do it.

What about if your child keeps getting strep throat over and over again? That is probably when many pediatricians, including myself, make the recommendation to throw out the old toothbrush. Invariably though, the parents have already tried that, and a contaminated toothbrush isn't the source of the child's new infection or the fact that he may just be a strep carrier.

The preliminary results of a small study that was recently presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC., Group A Streptococcus on Toothbrushes, concludes that their data do not support the practice of throwing out toothbrushes from group A Streptococcus infected children. None of the toothbrushes they tested of children with strep throat actually grew the strep bacteria, which is good news for parents who are tired of buying new toothbrushes before they typically would - every 3 to 4 months or when the bristles appear worn.

"This study supports that it is probably unnecessary to throw away your toothbrush after a diagnosis of strep throat," said co-author Judith L. Rowen, MD, associate professor of pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics at UTMB.

Instead, you can likely just teach your kids to clean their toothbrush after they use it, following the advice of the CDC - "After brushing, rinse your toothbrush thoroughly with tap water to ensure the removal of toothpaste and debris, allow it to air-dry, and store it in an upright position."

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