You may be brushing twice a day, but if your toothbrush is worn out (or worse, 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 and how to tell if you or someone in your family is using one that’s past its prime.
The American Dental Association recommends switching to a new toothbrush about every three months—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.
In some circumstances, you should replace your toothbrush even if the bristles are not visibly frayed. When you’ve been sick with a cold or flu, or have had a mouth or throat infection, sore throat, or a mouth sore, you should replace your toothbrush even if it’s new. 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:
- Size—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.
- Bristles—Unless your dentist recommends otherwise, choose a toothbrush with soft nylon bristles. Medium or hard bristles are unnecessarily for most people and can actually damage your tooth enamel.
- Disposable versus electric—Data shows little difference in the effectiveness of brushing with a disposable or electric toothbrush, so it’s really a matter of personal choice. Some electric toothbrushes have an automatic timer to ensure that you brush for the recommended minimum of two minutes.
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 any excess toothpaste and debris.
- Store toothbrushes upright, in the open, and not touching one another, so they have a chance to 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 by setting 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!