A solid toothbrush is the foundation of oral hygiene. But do you actually need to change it as often as the dentist says? Really, what happens if you don’t? Let’s take a look at how to know when to change your toothbrush—and why this is a task you shouldn’t skip.
Rule of Thumb
Start by taking a good look at your toothbrush. Not while half-awake and getting ready before work, either—give yourself a minute to focus. There are some telltale signs that it needs replacing.
First, check the bristles. Are they going in every direction except upright? Next, look at the brush head base. Is the base of the bristle head discolored and off-putting? These are clear signs that your toothbrush needs to be replaced immediately.
Manual Toothbrush Replacement
According to medical professionals at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average lifespan of a toothbrush is 3 to 4 months. After that, the viability of the bristles decreases substantially. If the bristles are worn out or frayed, they will not be as effective in clearing out plaque or food particles. Essentially you’ll just be rubbing your gums. As a general rule, if you do not remember when you purchased the toothbrush, it is most likely past its change date.
Electric Toothbrush Replacement
If you’re using an electric toothbrush, the timeline shortens to every 12 weeks. You should be replacing it more often than a manual toothbrush because electric toothbrushes tend to have shorter bristles. They also move at a rapid pace, causing the bristles to wear down faster than they would on a manual toothbrush. Depending on the kind of electric toothbrush and the frequency at which you brush, you might want to replace it even sooner than the recommended average duration.
Primary (baby) teeth, although not permanent, should be cared for and maintained with the same routine as any other teeth. Keeping these teeth clean during milk feeding prevents early plaque buildup and oral infections. It also instills a healthy habit in children early on. The type of toothbrush used for kids 0-3 years old is called a Finger Slip Toothbrush. These are soft silicone brushes whose primary use is to clean away leftover milk or other residual foodstuffs that may accumulate throughout the day. The bristles on these finger slipped toothbrushes may be different, but they should still be replaced with the same frequency as a manual toothbrush.
A kid-size toothbrush recommended for 3 to 5–year-olds is essentially a smaller manual toothbrush with encouraging characteristics to keep the child interested in informing good hygiene practices. Yes, you may teach your child how to use it with the appropriate amount of toothpaste, but you should still regularly check the integrity of the toothbrush or keep a note. Because the bristles are softer, they can get worn down a lot easier. Children also tend to gnaw and chew on the toothbrush. Due to this tendency, a kid’s toothbrush should be replaced more often than an adult’s.
What Happens If They’re Not Changed?
The point of a toothbrush is to remove plaque and food particles. But where do these things end up after you brush? More often than not, they stay attached to your toothbrush. In an uncovered toothbrush, over 100 million bacteria can accumulate and sit, waiting for you to use it again. Remember, most bacteria use sugars as an energy source, just like we do. This is why it is very important to thoroughly rinse off your toothbrush and cover it after you brush it. This should also be part of the routine talk to children. But as we know, children aren’t very thorough with cleaning tasks. Because of this, it might be best to double-check and give that extra rinse to our children’s toothbrushes.
Failing to change your toothbrush essentially means that you’ll be wasting your time brushing with an ineffective tool. Everything from when the bristles tend to fray to the unsightly accumulation of bacteria and gunk on the handle outweighs the minor convenience of using the same brush over and over. A few bucks at the store is a worthwhile investment, so set a recurring reminder on your phone to change your toothbrush. Your smile will be better for it.