For most, the action of brushing one’s teeth comes as second nature.
Little thought, if any, goes into this daily routine.
However, there tends to be the same lack of thought when it comes to replacing the toothbrush. Think for a moment: when was the last time you replaced your toothbrush?
We constantly strive to get rid of the bacterium on our teeth, but what about the germs that remain on our toothbrush?
How often should you replace your toothbrush? Believe it or not, the answer to this question essentially comes down to the state of the bristles.
How Often Should You Change Your Toothbrush and Why?
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends switching out an old toothbrush with a new one every three to four months. If the bristles on the toothbrush are frayed, bent or matted before the advised time period, toss it.
At three months — perhaps even month four — when the time has come to replace the toothbrush, a lot of people tend to forgo the suggestion.
According to Delta Dental, a U.S.-based dental benefits provider, three out of four millennials brush their teeth once a day. If the toothbrush was used for two minutes, three times a day as recommended by the ADA, by the third month of proper use the toothbrush should show signs that it is ready for retirement.
Why Is It Important To Change Your Toothbrush Every Three Months?
The toothbrush can only do an effective job if it gets into the recesses and fine spaces between the teeth. Once the bristles of the toothbrush become tattered, frayed and bent, it can no longer do the job it was designed for.
If the bristles end up brushing away from the targeted areas, cavities can form. These pits can foster a host of oral infections, defeating the whole point of using a toothbrush.
The rounded bristles lining the head of the toothbrush — forming the brush — are typically made from nylon. Refining them creates a smooth dome, an intentional design to protect enamel and gum tissue.
Each time a toothbrush is being used, the pressure and friction cause the bristles — which were at an even height originally — to become uneven, resulting in a ragged toothbrush head. The rutted, sharp bristles can start wearing down the enamel and scraping away gum tissue, leaving the mouth vulnerable to further damage.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even if the toothbrush maintains a fresh-out-of-the-package appearance, people should factor in the possibility that the toothbrush has had contact with blood, saliva, food debris and cross-contaminated toothpaste. Over time, despite giving the toothbrush a good rinse under the tap, toothbrushes might carry harmful microorganisms. This risk is especially relevant after being ill.
At the very least, you should disinfect your toothbrush to avoid these harmful bacteria from forming.
What Happens If You Don’t Change Your Toothbrush?
There are several risks you take by not changing your toothbrush every three to four months.
If you’ve just recovered from being sick, the nasty bugs that caused the illness could still be lingering on the toothbrush used during that time. Studies have shown that contaminated toothbrushes can be the source of infections such as streptococci.
Remember that even if the toothbrush appears to be clean, the human mouth contains a plethora of microorganisms. Dental experts recommend replacing your toothbrush after an illness to avoid sickly germs that could still be lingering around.
When a person does not adhere to the recommended guidelines for the amount of time and proper equipment with regards to maintaining a healthy smile, the accumulation of bacteria forms into sticky plaque.
If left poorly treated or neglected, eventually the substances harden into tartar. Tartar acts like a grimy hard wall of bacterium that makes it even harder for the toothbrush to do its job, thus resulting in tooth decay, gum disease, and other potentially serious health issues.
Another way to know when it’s time to chuck your toothbrush (that might be covered in microscopic grime), is to glide your tongue across your teeth after you brush. If the surface doesn’t feel slick, it’s time for a change.
In an interview with Business Insider, New York City-based dentist Dr. Keith Arbeitman said:
“When you’ve kind of lost that feeling, it’s a good idea to change to a new brush.”
Earley mentioned that patients should not defer regular visits to the dentist. Regular checkups and screenings are key to maintaining proper oral hygiene.
Depending on storage, sanitizing methods, brushing techniques and routines, attempts to rid gingivitis or prevent tooth decay will be in vain if the bristles are tattered or worn out. Remember to store your toothbrush properly and toss it in the trash every time the season changes.
What the Dentists Say
Oregon-based dental assistant Emily Earley spoke on preventable issues she has come across in the past nine years working in the industry,
“The most common issue I see day to day is a toothache due to gross decay,” Earley said.
“Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are noticeably frayed,” she advised, “When in doubt, look at the bristles. If they are frayed, they won’t clean teeth as thoroughly. A new toothbrush is always better.”
Electric or Manual?
Earley also commented on the topic of which instrument is best: a manual or electric toothbrush.
“Electric or manual? I get this question a lot. I base it on patient preference,” she noted. “However, there are different circumstances where I would recommend electric over the manual.”
Overall, it all comes down to preference dependent on circumstance and individual. If using an electric toothbrush, the same rule of thumb applies when replacing the electric toothbrush head. Change it out every three to four months or when the bristles no longer stand straight.
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