By Brian W. Donnelly, M.D., Pediatric Alliance — North Hills Division



Of Toothbrushes and Strep


Have you ever been told to throw out your child’s toothbrush after they have had strep throat?

The theory behind getting a new toothbrush is that the streptococcus bacteria could contaminate the toothbrush and reinfect your child once the antibiotic course is complete. The problem is there isn’t any good research to suggest that we should do that at all. In fact, the results of a small study presented at the 2013 Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, D.C., entitiled “Group A Streptococcus on Toothbrushes,” indicate that data does not support the practice of discarding toothbrushes from Group A Streptococcus (GAS)-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:

GAS was recovered from only one toothbrush, which had been used by a patient without strep throat. The other study toothbrushes failed to grow GAS but did grow other bacteria that are common in the mouth.

“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 [University of Texas Medical Branch – Galveston].


Taking antibiotics as directed to treat strep throat should be sufficient to get rid of the potentially dangerous bacteria.

So, we can rely on this standard issue advice offered by 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.”


And far enough away from the commode. The act of flushing can propel fecal bacteria up to 5 feet away from the toilet. A wet toothbrush provides a nice new home for these nasty vagabonds.

Please let this word to the wise be sufficient.


(Read more from Dr. Donnelly on The PediaBlog here.)