You may be brushing twice a day, but if your toothbrush is worn out or contaminated with germs, you’re not reaping the full benefits of proper oral care. Do your teeth and gums a favor and take the time to learn when it’s time to switch to a new toothbrush.
Why is it important to change your toothbrush?
While it might seem like a chore, changing your toothbrush is important because germs can build up and lead to infection. If you get sick, failing to change out your toothbrush can lead to reinfection.
It’s also important to change your toothbrush because they wear out over time and are less effective.
How often should you change your toothbrush?
The American Dental Association1 recommends switching to a new toothbrush about every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. This is, however, a general recommendation, as individual factors may require you to do so more often.
If you have braces, for example, the bristles of your toothbrush may become frayed more quickly and therefore need replacement more often.
Children’s toothbrushes typically need to be replaced more often than toothbrushes used by adults, according to the ADA. In addition to fraying bristles, another sign to watch for when deciding if your children need a new toothbrush is if the bristles no longer stand up straight. If you notice the bristles looking a little droopy, it may be time to buy a new toothbrush.
In some circumstances, you should replace your toothbrush even if the bristles are not visibly frayed. Some reasons to change your toothbrush even if it’s newer include:
- After illness like a cold or the flu
- If you have had a mouth or throat infection
- If you had a sore throat
- If you had a mouth sore such as a canker sore
Doing so will help prevent re-exposing yourself or others in your household to germs that could cause an illness.
Choosing the right toothbrush
It can be surprisingly tricky to find a toothbrush that’s a good fit for you, as there is a great deal of variety on the market. Here are some factors to consider.
You should use a toothbrush with a head that allows you to easily access all areas of your mouth, especially easy to miss places like behind your molars and along the rear gum line. This is usually easier with a smaller toothbrush head.
Type of bristles
Unless your dentist recommends otherwise, choose a toothbrush with soft nylon bristles. Before nylon was a material used for toothbrushes, boar’s hair was often used for bristles. However, nylon was introduced in the 1930s and has been used ever since in toothbrushes to effectively clean teeth.
Some people might consider other bristle types when selecting a new toothbrush. However, medium or hard bristles are unnecessarily for most people and can actually damage your tooth enamel2 because they could cause an abrasion from brushing too hard. While harder bristles are known for cleaning slightly more plaque than softer bristles, the benefits fail to outweigh the drawbacks.
Disposable vs. electric toothbrush
Data shows little difference in the effectiveness of brushing with a disposable or electric toothbrush, so it’s really a matter of personal choice.3 Some electric toothbrushes have an automatic timer to ensure that you brush for the recommended minimum of two minutes. This can be helpful for people who have trouble keeping track of how long they are brushing.
Electric toothbrushes are also helpful for people with limited mobility such as carpal tunnel or arthritis. If you have health issues that are negatively impacting your ability to clean your teeth properly, an electric toothbrush may help.
However, there are some disadvantages to electric toothbrushes, such as the cost. Disposable toothbrushes can be $5-8 to replace whereas a package of replaceable heads for an electric toothbrush can cost $10-45. It is important to consider the cost when deciding if this option is right for you.
Extend the life of your toothbrush
There are some things you can do to help your toothbrush last a bit longer.
- Rinse your toothbrush vigorously under cold running water after each use to remove excess toothpaste and debris.
- Store toothbrushes upright, in the open, and not touching one another so they can dry between uses.
- Use a plastic case to protect the bristles when you travel.
- Never share your toothbrush with anyone else.
By following a few simple steps, you can ensure that you and your family are making the most of your at-home dental routine by properly caring for and replacing your toothbrushes. Make it easy and set a calendar reminder to check each toothbrush every two or three months. Then get ready for praise from your dentist for taking such good care of your teeth.
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