When it comes to dental hygiene, a lot of time is spent on the importance of daily flossing and brushing twice a day, but often the subject of replacing toothbrushes is lost. Many people are unaware of how often then should be replacing their toothbrushes, likely waiting until their brush looks severely beaten up before they purchase a new one.
Unless your dentist has already informed you, you may be surprised at how often you should be replacing your toothbrush.
How Often Should You Replace Your Toothbrush?
As a general rule, you should be replacing your toothbrush or brush heads before the 4 month mark, according to the American Dental Association. The typical adult's toothbrush will have enough fraying by 3 or 4 months that the toothbrush will no longer be cleaning as effectively.
Some other factors to consider include:
Children's toothbrushes typically need to be replaced sooner than adults.
Toothbrushes should be replaced after illness, infection or after healing from oral sores.
Toothbrushes that smell of mildew or have debris stuck in them.
People with braces will wear out toothbrushes faster.
Essentially any toothbrush exhibiting fading colors, frays, or splits should be replaced with a new one. It is especially important to replace toothbrushes after getting over a cold, flu or even just a sore throat. You should also replace your toothbrush if the bristles got smashed during travel or if someone else used your brush.
Why Is It Important to Replace Your Toothbrush?
Here are a few reasons why replacing your toothbrush every few months is recommended:
Old Toothbrushes Don't Clean Teeth as Effectively
The major reason why any toothbrush showing damage should be discarded is fairly simple. A brush that has split or frayed bristles won't be able to clean teeth properly.
Toothbrush manufacturers pay special attention to design of bristles to ensure they reach all around and between teeth. An old toothbrush that is being to splay out will slowly miss those nooks and crannies, leaving behind debris that can cause plaque.
Splayed Bristles May Cause You to Brush Too Hard
Not only do old toothbrushes not clean teeth properly, but also as the bristles splay outwards, many people end up brushing harder to compensate. It's widely known by dentists that aggressive brushing or excessive brushing can cause damage to both gums and teeth. Proper brushing technique is vital for removal of plaque and maintaining a healthy mouth. Replacing your brush often will ensure you don't cause any damage.
Toothbrushes Can Harbor Bad Bacteria
The average toothbrush can have millions of bacteria on it, including some very scary ones like E. coli and Staph, according to studies. While this seems alarming, the average healthy person probably won't get sick from their toothbrush as the mouth naturally have large amounts of good bacteria present. However, people with lowered immune systems can become sick from using a toothbrush with the same bacteria others could fight off. This is why it's important for people just getting over an illness to replace toothbrushes and why those susceptible to illness really should replace their brushes as often as every 3 months.
The importance of regularly replacing toothbrushes isn't just limited to regular brushes either. Some consumers are wrongly informed that electronic toothbrushes clean better or don't need to be replaced as often. This simply isn't true. Even with electronic toothbrushes you should use a new head every 3 to 4 months.
How Do You Care for Your Toothbrush?
Once you throw out your old toothbrush you should take some extra steps to ensure your new brush lasts as long as possible. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Allow Your Toothbrush to Air Dry Fully
Unless your toothbrush is soaking in an antibacterial solution it needs to air dry fully in an upright position to ensure bacteria dies off. You should also ensure your toothbrush isn't up against other toothbrushes as these can transfer bacteria or keep the bristles from drying out. Storing toothbrushes in a drawer isn't a good idea, but if you do at least leave out your toothbrush until it's fully dry to stowing it away.
Be Wary of Using Toothbrush Covers or Closed Holders
Toothbrush head covers or those nifty wall-mounted toothbrush holders seem like a good idea but think twice before buying one. Covering the head of a toothbrush seems like a good way to keep the bristles in good condition and eliminate exposure to airborne germs but they can actually increase bacteria growth.
Majority of oral bacteria requires moisture to live, and when these types of bacteria are transferred to your toothbrush they typically will just dry out as the brush dries. Unfortunately, many covers or closed holders slow down drying time, leaving your bristles sitting in a moist environment.
Always Rinse Your Brush Before Storing
It only takes a moment of your time but be sure you thoroughly rinse off your toothbrush when you're done. Run it under tap water and ensure all toothpaste or debris from brushing are washed away. Though it may not be necessary, some people like to rinse their brush with an antibacterial mouthwash, or even leave the brush head completely soaking in a cup of mouthwash.
Next time you purchase a new toothbrush take a moment to write the "expiration date" in permanent marker on the brush or create a reminder on your phone for an alert 3 or 4 months from now.
Zoey is a part-time blogger and a full-time nurse. She is the founder and editor of leanrecipes.com an avenue for sharing her passion about juicing, plant-based diet and living a healthier lifestyle.
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