Should You Use a Toothbrush Cover? Facts & Myths

Should You Use a Toothbrush Cover? Facts & Myths
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Should You Use a Toothbrush Cover? Facts & MythsClinical Content Reviewed by Licensed DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Do Covers Protect Your Toothbrush
  2. When To Use A Toothbrush Cover
  3. When Not To Use A Cover
  4. Keep Your Toothbrush Clean
  5. Bottom Line
  6. References

Toothbrush covers are a good way to keep your toothbrush safe from dirt and damage while you travel, but you shouldn’t use them all the time.

If you do, it creates a humid environment for your toothbrush. This encourages more bacterial growth, which can harm your oral health.

Toothbrush Covers Protect Your Toothbrush, Right?

What does it mean to keep your toothbrush clean? Many people struggle with managing hygiene for a hygiene item, like their toothbrush.

Replacing the toothbrush every three to four months, or when the bristles become frayed, is one important step. Another is to keep it away from particles that might make it dirtier. What does that mean? Unfortunately, to keep their toothbrushes clean, too many people put their toothbrush in a situation where it can become home to unhealthy microorganisms.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends some basic steps to keeping your toothbrush clean and free of microorganisms. Their guidelines include the advice to keep the toothbrush stored upright rather than upside down or lying flat.

Keeping it in a space with open air is also important. If you store your toothbrush in a medicine cabinet or with a toothbrush cover on it, you prevent airflow from drying the toothbrush. This can create a humid environment that bacteria thrive in.

Still, there are some reasons to use a toothbrush cover, such as to keep your toothbrush safe during travel.

When Is It a Good Idea to Use a Toothbrush Cover?

Toothbrush covers are small devices, often made of plastic, that fit over the head of the toothbrush. Sometimes, you may choose to use a toothbrush cover, a larger device that can cover the entire toothbrush, including the bristles. You may use something like a toothbrush cover to keep your toothbrush away from damage.

When to Use a Toothbrush Cover

Travel is an excellent reason to use a toothbrush cover. Keeping a toothbrush in a travel bag puts the bristles at risk of damage or becoming dirty. Putting a toothbrush cover over the bristles can help them stay in better shape and prevent them from getting covered in dirt from other parts of your bag.

When you pack your travel toothbrush, be sure that the toothbrush is:

  • Fully dry.
  • Typically stored in an upright position.
  • New enough that the bristles are not worn out.
  • Clean.

Do not put a wet toothbrush into a cover, even if you just rinsed the bristles to remove any dirt. If your toothbrush is worn out, you may consider buying a new toothbrush instead and opening the package when you reach your destination.

Sterilizing or disinfecting your toothbrush eliminates 100% of all bacteria on your brush.

When Is the Wrong Time to Use a Toothbrush Cover?

A 2011 study published by NSF International, the Household Germ Study, found that microorganisms thrived in certain environments, and certain places or items were more likely to be covered in potentially dangerous bacteria or viruses than others.

Kitchen sinks, sponges, dish rags, bathroom faucet handles, and toilets were probably unsurprising places to find germs, but many people were shocked by the news that their toothbrush holders could harbor grime. This includes holders like toothbrush covers. They might not only create a humid environment for bacteria to grow in, but they can also trap bacteria rather than removing them during the drying process.

This surprising revelation led many people to decide that they needed to store their toothbrushes differently, particularly if they were at risk of the toothbrush being near the toilet. While it is important to keep your toothbrush away from your toilet, even in a small bathroom, locking your toothbrush in a medicine cabinet, in a toothbrush holder, or even in just a toothbrush cover that goes over the bristles means you risk your toothbrush staying in an environment without enough airflow to properly dry the bristles, which increases the risk of bacteria that can make you sick.

Using a toothbrush cover when you travel is a great way to keep your toothbrush safe. Once you arrive, it is important to take your toothbrush out of the cover and store it in a safe place where it can dry easily.

Keep Your Toothbrush Cover Clean

Travel toothbrush holders and covers are typically made from hard plastic, which is a material that is easy to clean. Rinse them out with warm water. Do not use hot water, as it can denature the plastic. Then, wipe down the inside with a clean cloth. You can also use dish soap to thoroughly clean out the inside.

Avoid using alcohol or another corrosive substance since that can also denature the plastic or other material. Some types of plastic toothbrush covers can safely go through the dishwasher.

Keeping your toothbrush clean sometimes includes keeping your toothbrush cover clean, so be sure to follow care instructions for both items. This improves your oral health.

The Bottom Line

The fact is that toothbrush covers work well for travel. But it’s a myth that toothbrush covers keep your toothbrush cleaner in day-to-day life.


Oral Health Topics: Toothbrushes. (February 2019). American Dental Association (ADA). Date fetched: May 28, 2021.

Should You Use a Toothbrush Cover? Colgate. Date fetched: May 28, 2021.

2011 NSF International Household Germ Study. (2011). NSF International. Date fetched: May 28, 2021.

The Effect of Toothbrush Covers on Bacterial Retention. (September 2004). Journal of Dental Hygiene (JDH), American Dental Hygienists’ Association.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.