Changing your toothbrush plays an important part in daily hygiene and oral care.

Dental professionals recommend that both adults and children brush their teeth at least twice daily, but oral care does not end there.When should I change my toothbrush? It is important to make sure you are brushing with a hygienic and effective toothbrush. In order to keep infections and bacteria at bay, the toothbrush must be effective at its job of thoroughly cleaning the teeth, including the edges, gaps, and gums.

Toothbrush hygiene is a fairly easy standard to maintain, particularly if you are in generally good health. A clean toothbrush is important, but giving your toothbrush a regular deep clean is not actually necessary. The quality of the bristles after several months of brushing are a telltale sign on whether you need to invest in a new toothbrush or toothbrush head for an electric toothbrush.

Hygiene Information for Your Toothbrush

In several studies on oral health, researchers found out that an astounding average of 100 million bacteria, including E. coli and staphylococci may be present on your toothbrush at any given time. This should not drive you to break out a new toothbrush every time you brush, especially since hundreds of types of microorganisms are naturally present in our mouths and these bacteria that live in the bristles do not usually make people sick.

In addition, toothpaste comes with anti-germ components, so using a sufficient amount of toothpaste when you brush will aid in reducing these bacteria. Keep your toothbrush in an area that is open to enable it to dry, as germs thrive in moist environments.

The human body is regularly exposed to potentially harmful germs, bacteria and illness, but it is comforting to know that our bodies are designed with an immune system and white blood cells that actively work to fight off disease when threatened.

People with compromised immune systems, such as those with immune-related disorders or cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, are at a higher risk of attack from bacteria and illness transferred from the toothbrush and should take extra precautions to avoid further illness where possible.

Cautionary Toothbrush Hygiene

Although the bacterium often present on toothbrushes is nothing to be afraid of, there are ways you can keep bacteria to a minimum. These tips are particularly relevant if you or a member of your household has compromised immunity for any reason.

The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests the following:

  • Do not share toothbrushes. This bad habit often results in the exchange of bodily fluids from one user to another. In addition, any microorganisms on the bristles can be transferred, which puts both users at risk of infection or disease, especially if one has a weak or compromised immune system.
  • Thoroughly rinse. After using your toothbrush, ensure that all remains of toothpaste or debris are washed away. Store the toothbrush in an upright position and place it somewhere to dry off before the next use. If sharing a container with other toothbrushes, ensure the heads are kept at a distance to prevent cross contamination.
  • Avoid covering or tightly containing your toothbrush. When the toothbrush is kept in a tightly sealed or moist container, the chances of bacterial growth increase. Although it seems counter-intuitive to leave your toothbrush in the open air, your risk of germs and infection is much less than when kept contained.

bacteria on used toothbrushClean the toothbrush properly. Although it’s not completely necessary, there are ways to effectively clean your toothbrush on a regular basis:

  • Soak the toothbrush in alcohol: Kills the germs after use
  • Rinse the toothbrush with mouthwash: Can be used as a cleaning method for the bristles because of its antiseptic qualities
  • Dip the toothbrush head in boiling water: Sanitizes and kills germs
  • Do not clean your toothbrush by placing it in the dishwasher or microwave.

A scanning electron microscope image of a used toothbrush showing bristles covered in dental plaque after brushing.

Most manufacturers will not have designed the toothbrush to withstand these cleaning methods and using them could cause damage to the brush or lessen its effectiveness.

When to Change Your Toothbrush

Changing your toothbrush will depend largely on signs of wear and tear. Most dentists will recommend that you replace your toothbrush every 2-3 months, however this is not a hard and fast rule. The most important thing to be concerned about with regard to your toothbrush is its ability to do its job well.

A good toothbrush can withstand a thorough cleaning at least twice a day and will brush away food buildup, plaque, and anything else that has settled on the surface of the teeth. The toothbrush must therefore have strong enough bristles to do this job well. Over time, your toothbrush bristles will begin to look worn, bent and if overused, the bristles will be splayed in all directions. This is not an effective way to clean your teeth, and though you can continue to use a toothbrush in this condition, the way it looks will inform you that it’s time for a replacement.

The heads of electric toothbrushes can often last longer because they require less pressure to clean effectively. Some manual toothbrushes – depending usually on price and quality – will not last a full 3 months, and you will need to change them out sooner than expected.

Dentists often recommend electric toothbrushes because of their quality, effectiveness and endurance over time. It is most beneficial to invest in a good quality toothbrush at whatever price level you can afford. A more expensive, higher quality toothbrush can actually save you money in the long run because you need not replace it so often.

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Dr. Shane Fisher

Dr. Shane Fisher, a board certified pediatric dentist, has over 15 years of providing comprehensive dental care for infants, children and teenagers. He has consistently received 5 star ratings throughout social media. He has patients that travel from all over the metropolitan area including Mequon, Whitefish Bay, Thiensville, River Hills, Fox Point, Glendale and other northern Milwaukee suburbs.

If you would like for your child to have a great experience at a pediatric dentist, please call Dr. Shane A. Fisher at The Kids Dentist 262-241-0400 or complete an online appointment request.

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