Your toothbrush is perhaps the most important tool in your oral health arsenal. The humble toothbrush is your first line of defense against cavities, gum disease, and even bad breath. However, like many humble yet important things, we all tend to take our toothbrushes for granted. By learning the basics of toothbrush care, we can all be a little healthier and happier. So how often should you change your toothbrush? How should you care for your toothbrush? Let’s take a look.
Changing or Replacing Your Toothbrush
As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to change your toothbrush at least every three or four months. This is the typical usable lifespan of a toothbrush, after which the bristles lose their stiffness and are unable to effectively remove debris and plaque. When in doubt, check the bristles themselves–if they are becoming frayed, matted, or falling out then it’s time for a new toothbrush right away.
Other factors may lead you to replace a toothbrush. If you or someone in your family has been ill and subsequently recovered, you may want to replace your toothbrushes to avoid spreading infection or reinfecting the ill person. Viral or bacterial infections of the mouth, throat, or respiratory system are especially problematic for toothbrushes–strep throat being a prime culprit. Likewise, if someone uses your toothbrush by mistake, replacing it is a smart idea. The rule of thumb is “better safe than sorry.” Toothbrushes are relatively inexpensive and your health is priceless.
For those of you with small children, you may need to replace their toothbrushes more often. Little ones have a tendency to mash, chew on, and otherwise give their toothbrushes hard use that wears them out more quickly. Additionally, little kids are often Petri dishes for germs, so more frequent toothbrush replacement becomes a key issue in keeping them healthy.
Electric toothbrushes differ from the more common manual toothbrushes both in how they work and how often they need replacing. The rapid vibration or rotation of an electric toothbrush puts increased wear and tear on the bristles, causing them to need more frequent replacement. If you use an electric toothbrush, you’ll want to be more diligent about examining the bristles and replacing the head. As a rule of thumb, eight to twelve weeks is the maximum amount of time you’ll want to use an electric toothbrush head before replacing it.
Caring for Your Toothbrush
As with anything else, a little TLC can help your toothbrush last longer and work more effectively to keep your teeth clean. For hygiene’s sake, avoid sharing your toothbrush with other people–even those close to you–and avoid letting your toothbrush come into contact with other toothbrushes. Rinsing your toothbrush well in tap water before and after each use helps keep it clean and cuts down on wear and tear. Likewise, letting your toothbrush dry in the open air helps reduce both wear and tear and keeps bacteria and mold from growing within the bristles.
The humble toothbrush is capable of great things if used and cared for properly. By taking some simple steps to ensure you’re doing so, you can help keep your teeth and gums clean and happy for a lifetime.