If you ask someone when's the last time they changed their toothbrush and they say, "ummm"? It's been too long.
Well, there you have it folks! One of the many tidbits of conventional wisdom heard within dental practice. It's hardly the likes of Plato, but rings true just the same. Throughout the day to day hustle and bustle, it's easy to forget such little things. So, as dental assistants and hygienists we periodically remind or ask patients this question. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends replacing our toothbrush every 3 to 4 months, sooner if the bristles have become frayed, and immediately after overcoming a cold, flu, oral infection, or sore throat. According to Colgate: Oral Health & Resource Center, "studies have shown that after 3 months of normal wear and tear, toothbrushes are much less effective at removing plaque." Toothbrush bristles wear down over time, and unable to reach into the nooks and crevices around our teeth. Furthermore, the bristles begin to collect and harbor harmful bacteria, fungus, and other microorganisms that can cause illness and infection.
In other words, an old worn out toothbrush is no longer cleaning your teeth properly. In fact, it is doing the opposite by redepositing harmful bacteria back into your mouth and onto your teeth! I know it's gross to think about, but just as we wouldn't "clean" our floors with a dirty, worn out mop, the same principle applies to our toothbrush. Last but not least, when replacing a toothbrush always go for the softy! Yep, the soft-bristled brush. In this case, the method is counter-intuitive. Soft bristles are superior to hard bristles because they gently clean while being less abrasive on our tooth enamel and soft gum tissue. Over time hard bristles/brushing erodes the gum-line, causing it to recede and expose the roots of our teeth. Exposed roots are vulnerable to decay and sensitive to hot and cold. Not time to replace yet? Following these easy tips will help maintain your current toothbrush until it's time for a replacement.
Tips to preserve your toothbrush:
- NEVER share toothbrushes (risk of exchanging blood-borne pathogens).
- Rinse with hot water
- Always allow toothbrush to air dry.
- Avoid covering and/or storing in closed containers.
- Store at least 8 feet away from your toilet (if that's not possible store it inside a cabinet or outside the bathroom all together).