It’s practically a rule of good oral hygiene that you have to change your toothbrush regularly. You’ve likely noticed that the bristles get bent over time. Understandably, a toothbrush with bent bristles is less effective at cleaning your teeth.
But if you aren’t mindful about your oral hygiene habits, you may realize that it’s been more than three months since you’ve replaced your toothbrush. Or maybe you just don’t believe that it makes a difference.
Take a closer look at the reasons why Dr. Dhiraj Sharma suggests you replace your toothbrush every three or four months.
1. The Bristles Get Worn
Your toothbrush will look visibly worn over time, with bent bristles that have lost their stiffness. Unless you take a closer look, you may not even realize these changes in your toothbrush’s appearance. This is important because the bristles of the toothbrush are designed to clean your gums gently yet efficiently. When the bristles get worn, they are more abrasive on your gums.
That may seem like a minor inconvenience, but it can be much worse than that. If you use a toothbrush with worn-out bristles for too long, the abrasiveness can cause your gums to get inflamed. In turn, this can cause premature gum recession.
In addition to the general wear on the toothbrush bristles, the bristles’ angle is important. You want the bristles to be in an upright position so they can clean your teeth properly
2. Bacteria Buildup
Another major reason not to use your toothbrush for more than three or four months is bacteria buildup. You know that part of the goal of brushing your teeth is to remove food, plaque, and bacteria. Well, as you brush your teeth, bacteria are transferred to your toothbrush. Unfortunately, bacteria aren’t usually visible to the naked eye, so you are unlikely to notice the buildup.
The bottom line is that if you use the same toothbrush for a longer time, you transfer even more bacteria to it. That’s not good as the bacteria can breed and be transferred back to your mouth. Given the fact some types of bacteria are linked to gum disease and other oral health issues, you don’t really want to risk this.
3. Your Toothbrush Won’t Last Much Longer
A good reason to get a new toothbrush is that your current toothbrush has reached the end of its lifespan. At some point, your toothbrush will just stop being effective at cleaning your teeth, gums, and tongue. Its bristles will grow soft and its head may be chewed up, making it more difficult to maneuver around your mouth.
Even manufacturer guidelines say that toothbrushes should be replaced every 12 to 16 weeks. You can track your toothbrush replacement schedule more easily by marking the right months on your calendar. Dr. Dhiraj Sharma also recommends setting reminders on your phone for added convenience.
When You Need to Change Your Toothbrush Even Sooner
While changing your toothbrush every three or four months is ideal, there are some situations where Dr. Sharma strongly suggests you get a new toothbrush sooner.
You’ve recovered from sickness
Bacteria aren’t the only microscopic organisms that can stay on your toothbrush. Viruses can grab on to those bristles well. Because of this, you should always replace your toothbrush after you have a viral infection, like a cold or flu.
Failing to replace your toothbrush after this type of illness puts you at risk of reinfection. Remember that the bacteria and viruses from the sickness may be on your toothbrush and transfer back to your mouth.
This is extra-important if you store your toothbrush next to those owned by other members of your family. Depending on how you store toothbrushes, the bacteria and viruses may even move between toothbrushes and infect your family.
Your toothbrush has been exposed to unsanitary conditions
It’s always best to keep your toothbrush in a safe place where it can remain as clean as possible. However, there are some situations where your toothbrush will inadvertently be exposed to unsanitary conditions. For instance, one morning, you may find your toothbrush resting right up against another toothbrush. It’s better to replace your toothbrush then than to risk introducing foreign bacteria to your mouth.
Tips to Keep Your Toothbrush Clean
Keeping your toothbrush clean is a pretty straightforward process. However, there may be some things you don’t realize you should do.
Don’t Try Sterilizing the Toothbrush
If you drop your toothbrush on the floor or get sick, you may be tempted to try to sterilize it instead of replacing it. The bad news is that there is no effective method of sterilizing your toothbrush after such events. Using cleaning agents to sanitize the toothbrush may successfully eliminate the bacteria, but the agents themselves are likely to harm your gums and teeth.
What about heating the toothbrush by putting it in the dishwasher, microwave, or boiling water? This is likely to warp the bristles on your toothbrush. As we already established, warped bristles won’t clean your teeth as effectively.
Rinse and Air Dry After Use
After using your toothbrush, make sure you rinse it off before letting it air dry.
Store it in an Open Place and Keep it Away from Other Toothbrushes
You don’t want to store your toothbrush in an enclosed space. This will encourage bacteria to grow.
If you store your toothbrush in a holder or a cup of some sort, make sure that it doesn’t accidentally touch other people’s toothbrushes. Remember that this could lead to bacteria moving between the brushes.
What about kids’ toothbrushes?
When it comes to your children’s toothbrushes, it’s smart to change them even more frequently than every three or four months. At the very least, stick to the shorter end of the spectrum. That’s because young children are more likely to gnaw on the head and mess up the bristles. There’s also a higher risk that they will expose the brush to other bacteria if you turn away for a few minutes.
How do I clean electric toothbrushes?
All of the above advice applies to electric toothbrush heads just like it does to manual toothbrushes. After all, the brush heads have nearly identical designs. Like with regular toothbrushes, it’s also best to replace the head on an electric toothbrush every 12 weeks or so.
Takeaway: The Importance of Getting a New Toothbrush When Needed
At one point or another, your toothbrush will stop being useful at cleaning your teeth, gums, and tongue. Barring any incidents like sickness or exposure to unsanitary conditions, your toothbrush will likely need to be replaced every three to four months.
Make a note on your calendar each time you get a new toothbrush. This way, you can track your toothbrush’s lifespan and be reminded of when it’s time to buy a new one.
Don’t forget to schedule your regular cleanings and to reach out to our emergency dental services in Chicago if you have a dental emergency.