When you think of your most frequently used household items, the ones you just can’t live without, your mind may go straight to electronics like your coffee-maker, blow dryer, or television. We are drawn to value our creature comforts, it’s true.
But there is one small and mighty tool you use everyday, and hopefully multiple times per day, that you probably wouldn’t want to live without either. It may not stream your favorite show but you wouldn’t want to let it go. It’s your toothbrush and though it may take a back seat to bigger ticket items in your mind, it is a treasured possession, your little oral hygiene hero.
Or maybe you know just how helpful your toothbrush is in your daily routine, but you’ve just had the same one sitting on your shelf for too long. You may find it surprising to learn that your bristle-covered bestie may need changing more frequently than you think.
What Causes Toothbrush Breakdown?
The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth for two minutes each brushing session, and for at least two sessions a day. It is also recommended to use a soft-bristled toothbrush. You may prefer to brush after meals, especially ones containing sugary and starchy foods and beverages. That’s a great decision! You may be thinking about all the wear and tear that can happen to a toothbrush being used so often, and yes it’s true.
Let’s take a look at the best method for brushing, according to Mouth Healthy. Just look at what your brush is meant to do twice a day, each and every day.
- Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
- Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes.
- Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.
- Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and keep your breath fresh.
It is also important that, when you are brushing, you use a toothpaste containing fluoride. While brushing away bacteria and plaque can help cleanse the mouth of plaque build up, fluoride helps provide the necessary cavity fighting power every mouth needs. This is because fluoride binds to your enamel, blocking that bacteria and plaque from hanging out the next time you eat or drink. So make the most of your time brushing by using a safe and effective fluoride toothpaste.
How Often To Change Your Toothbrush
The longest time you should keep your toothbrush is between 3 and 4 months, as recommended by The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC). After this time, a new replacement toothbrush should be purchased as damage to bristles and the build-up of bacteria can cause your brush to lose its efficacy.
Signs That You Need a New Toothbrush
Sometimes, your toothbrush may undergo events that will cause you to need to switch to a new one before the suggested timeframe. Here are some signs that it’s time to switch out your toothbrush for a new one, even if you haven’t hit the 3 to 4 month mark yet.
When you first purchase your toothbrush, its bristles will be evenly spaced, straight, and tall. But all of the thorough and frequent brushing of your teeth and tongue causes wear. If your bristles have become rough-feeling, crooked, bent or frayed, it’s time for a new one.
One way to build some longevity for your bristles is to keep from walking around and multi-tasking as you brush, as it can cause you to bite down on your brush head, causing damage to the bristles. Stay looking in the mirror to avoid this from happening.
Toothbrushes are great at getting bits of food left behind in your teeth after eating meals and snacks. If you take a look at the bottoms of the bristles along the head of your toothbrush and notice any debris stuck in the spaces, it may be time for a new toothbrush.
We wipe down door handles, spray bleach on countertops, and keep our distance from others. When we come down with a sickness, a diligence to keep germs from contaminating others or re-infecting ourselves naturally kicks in. In the same way that you cleanse your home after spreading germs to prevent recurring sickness, it is important to change your toothbrush after any illness. Keep that cold, flu, or stomach bug from getting the chance to come back for another round by replacing your brush each time you get sick.
Perhaps you haven't been sick, but a little one in your house has taken to your toothbrush as a magic wand or is using a pair as pretend drumsticks. If your toothbrush has been dropped on the floor, carried around, stuffed in between the sofa, or in any other way contaminated by germs, purchase a germ-free one before brushing again.
A cup full of family toothbrushes is a sweet sight to see. Mom and dad’s toothbrushes cuddled up next to tiny toothbrushes with children’s favorite characters is a good sign that the family’s oral health is a priority. But before you let your toothbrushes cuddle up together, you should consider what kind of bacteria may be swapping between brushes. If your toothbrushes have been touching, it’s best to grab new ones.
A fire burns brightest when surrounded by plenty of oxygen, but for bacteria, it is not so. Bacteria love to grow in darkness, enclosure, and moisture. It may look cleaner to keep your toothbrush in a drawer and out of sight, but keeping your toothbrush out in the open will allow bacteria and germs to die.
It is also best to store your toothbrush upright so water and germs can wash down the handle, rather than sitting on the bristles . If your toothbrush has been lurking in the darkness of a drawer, go grab a new one and display it with pride!
Sharing is caring, right? Well, not when it comes to your toothbrush. There is a difference in swapping spit while kissing and trading bacteria while brushing. During a kiss saliva is shared, however during a toothbrushing session bacteria is actually stirred up and gathered onto your toothbrush. There is also a chance to exchange plaque-build up with one another.
If you are in a bind and desperately need to use someone else’s toothbrush or lend your own be sure to rinse the toothbrush thoroughly before sharing. Additionally, once you are able, purchase a new toothbrush for future use.
Lost Track of Time
Just like getting an oil change right on time, it can be easy for purchasing a new toothbrush on time to slip your mind. If you cannot remember the last time you bought a new toothbrush, it is a good idea to purchase a new one and start tracking the time. Use an erasable marker to write a replacement date on your mirror or set an alarm in your phone and keep your bristles running as clean as your engine!
The head of an electric toothbrush should be treated like and changed as frequently as any manual brush, so be sure to replace your toothbrush head every 3 to 4 months, unless you experience any of the above. If you use an electric toothbrush and notice the motor giving out or not functioning smoothly and properly, it may be time to purchase a new one. Discontinue use of any malfunctioning toothbrush to ensure a gentle brushing of your enamel and gums.
How to Get the Most Life From Your Toothbrush
WIth this new understanding of all the reasons to switch to a new toothbrush, let’s look at how you can care for your toothbrush and keep it effective and clean as long as possible.
- Wash your hands before brushing to keep unwanted germs at bay
- Rinse your toothbrush before and after brushing, moving your clean thumb over the bristles to release any debris.
- Disinfect your toothbrush by soaking it in an antibacterial mouthwash or baking soda and water mixture periodically.
- Store your toothbrush in hydrogen peroxide, making sure to make a new solution daily.
- Use a tablet of denture cleaner to quickly sanitize your bristles.
- Avoid storing your toothbrush side-by-side with others.
- Avoid storing your toothbrush too close to any toilets.
- Tap, shake, or rub your bristles to get excess water out after each use and discourage bacterial growth.
- Clean travel toothbrush covers, and only use a cover over dry bristles.
- Keep your toothbrush handle clean by washing it or wiping with disinfectant regularly
- When using your favorite toothpaste (Don’t have a favorite? Check out ours!)
Feel ready to go grab a new toothbrush and take care of it? If so, that’s great, because the toothbrush that you take care of takes care of you! Follow these simple steps and keep your oral hygiene routine gentle, germ-free, and effective.