We hardly pay any attention to our toothbrushes. We don’t look at them minutely; as long as they seem fine we keep using them. It’s not just you; most of us do the same. But wait you might be making a big blunder and harming your mouth by using the same old toothbrush. Let’s find out why it’s important to regularly replace your toothbrush, when to replace it and how to take care of it.
How often should you replace your toothbrush?
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that people should replace toothbrushes approximately every 3-4 months or sooner if the bristles show signs of wear and become frayed or matted.
This is an average and the time depends on the way you use it. Sometimes it becomes difficult to figure out when the bristles are damaged so the 3-4 months guideline helps. This applies to manual as well as electric toothbrushes in which case you just replace the head of the brush. In fact for an electric toothbrush, keep in mind that the bristles are shorter and can fray sooner.
There are times when you might have to replace your toothbrush sooner. If the bristles are getting frayed too soon you are brushing the wrong way.
So why is there much fuss about replacing the seemingly innocuous toothbrush? Because it can affect your dental health and can be a cause of infection! So not just proper brushing and flossing, but also proper care of your toothbrush and timely replacement should be a part of your oral care routine.
What are the reasons for changing your toothbrush?
As you brush twice a day or sometimes more frequently, the bristles of your toothbrush bend, they regularly come in contact with water and chemicals from your toothpaste and so start to become weak and less rigid. They can fall out, take a new shape, become matted and twisted in about 3 months’ time and start to change shape and become what is called ‘flared’.
Without the firmness of the bristles, the brush is of no use and cannot serve its purpose of cleaning your teeth. The bristles cannot pass around the tooth surface and effectively remove plaque and food particles. So plaque beings to accumulate on your teeth and can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria in your mouth. This can lead to swollen gums, bleeding and inflammation of the gums called gingivitis as well as foul odor and halitosis. Excess bacteria in the mouth are also behind the development of cavities.
The frayed twisted bristles also start to collect bacteria. So when you brush your teeth with such a toothbrush you are in fact inadvertently reinserting bacteria in your mouth leading to reinfection and gingivitis. Counterintuitive isn’t it!
Worn out bristles are more likely to harbor bacteria and fungi. Any black spots on your toothbrush mean mold growing on it. It sounds awful, isn’t it?
As the bristles start to part, the hard plastic that holds them can come in contact with your teeth leading to damage and wearing of enamel.
How should you take care of your toothbrush?
1. After every use rinses your toothbrush carefully with water.
A thorough wash with tap water will remove bacteria, debris and leftover toothpaste from the bristles. Keep it erect to dry off in a place where there is air circulation. Always watch for signs of damage and wear on your bristles.
Never put your brush in the microwave or oven as it can damage it. There is no need to clean it with hot water, sanitizer, disinfectant or mouthwash as this can, in fact, spread bacteria.
2. Always change your brush after a recent illness such as cold, flu or other infections. The germs are still on your bristles and can re-infect you or get passed on to the toothbrush next to yours infecting its user.
3. Kids have a tendency to bite on their brushes making the bristles fray sooner and so need faster replacement.
4. You can share food and clothes but sharing toothbrushes is an absolute no!
Never share your toothbrush with anybody that includes your close family members as well. Small nicks and scratches are created in the soft tissues of your mouth while brushing which exposes the bristles to the user’s blood. If the user is suffering from any blood-borne diseases like hepatitis B or other viral or bacterial infections, they can get transferred to the new user. So don’t take a risk and don’t share brushes.
Even when storing brushes together, make sure the heads are not touching each other.
5. Storing your toothbrush.
Store in a place where the bristles can dry off; no need for a special closed container. Just make sure it is kept clean when not in use and the bristles are able to dry off. Mold or bacteria can grow on damp bristles stored in closed containers.
Best way to clean teeth
Use a brush with soft bristles with a head that fits well in your mouth and is able to access all the areas of your mouth easily.
The head of the brush should be at a 45-degree angle to the gums and now gently move it back and forth, keeping the bristles at the junction of the gums and tooth surface. Make sure to cover the outer, inner and chewing surfaces of all teeth. Sometimes, uneven alignment of teeth, presence of dental bridge or invisible braces makes it difficult to reach certain areas with a regular toothbrush in which case you can get a little extra help from an interdental brush or an oral irrigator. Clean between your teeth with floss at least once a day as the toothbrush cannot reach these areas.
Visit your dentist regularly for professional teeth cleaning, checkup and to keep oral diseases at bay. Make an appointment today with our dentists at Signature Smiles. During your visit, you can talk to him/her about your brushing technique and other useful products to keep your mouth clean.