Toothbrushes are part of the trinity of regular oral hygiene that also includes flossing and regular dental exams. Unfortunately, it’s the only one of the three that can pose as much of a threat to your dental health as it can optimize it. Replacing your toothbrush is very important. Otherwise, it’s effectiveness at removing bacteria, plaque, and other malicious micro-organism diminishes. This is due to two factors: the deforming of the bristles and the re-infestation of the germs it initially removed from the oral cavity.
How Often Should You Replace Your Toothbrush?
It’s estimated that well over 100 species and up to 1 million bacteria live in our mouths. Imagine how often your toothbrush removes these, only for them to multiply again the next time you eat or drink something. Eventually, your toothbrush will become a breeding ground as well. That’s one reason why the American Dental Association suggests getting a new one every 3-4 months.
In addition to the normal flora and resulting plaque, germs and viruses can also move into the mouth and multiply as sinus-based symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and nose blowing occur. Your toothbrush harbors all of them, and reusing it can re-infect you. Likewise, if the family toothbrushes are stored together, you can be sure that you’re spreading more than love between each other.
Concerns about Air Borne Contaminants
What many people don’t consider is that if not properly stored, toothbrushes pick up all sorts of contaminants. These pollutants can include fecal matter droplets from the flushing of the toilet, asbestos and other old home materials, dust mites, and mold spores. These all circulate and settle around the home. If you’re toothbrush is stored in a cup on your bathroom countertops, all these can also land on your freshly wet bristles. Instead, keep your toothbrush head covered but with some breathing holes to allow for complete drying between brushes. Another option is to store your toothbrush in a medicine cabinet to protect it from all of these possible pollutants.
Another thing to keep in mind as you plan where best to keep your toothbrush between brushing is that most bacteria from the mouth can’t live outside of a moist environment. When you allow your brush to dry out, you kill off most of the bacteria that the bristles have gathered.
Replacement Signs for Your Toothbrush
Even if you store your toothbrush properly and stay healthy, there are still a few things that should prompt you to toss out your brush or electronic brush heads. These include:
- Frayed or outward bent bristles
- Bristle discoloration
- Build-up of old toothpaste between bristles
- Missing or loose bristles
- If you’re not sure whether or not to throw it out, just toss it!