Word to the Wise: Changing Your Toothbrush

Change Your Brush

Bristles deteriorate with time and usage, so if you’re using the same toothbrush beyond a few months, you may not be getting the best clean anymore. Rather, make a point of getting a new brush every three to four months – or at your semiannual dental checkup.

Why should I change my brush?

Your toothbrush is loaded with more germs than you care to think about. After all, its No. 1 job is digging out leftover food and bacteria from the corners of your mouth, which a 2014 study published in the Scientific World Journal estimated houses more than 700 bacterial species.

“People grow all sorts of crazy things on their toothbrush,” Mark Burhenne, DDS, who wasn’t involved in the research, told Fox News. That can be harmful if bacteria from a cold virus, for instance, harbors on your toothbrush and you end up getting reinfected.

Your best defense: Replacing your toothbrush often. The American Dental Association says the magic number is every three to four months.

That’s not only because of bacteria, though. “Everyone sees the toothbrush as a safe, wonderful, efficacious thing whereas dentists kind of look at it the opposite,” Burhenne said. Patients can do damage by over-brushing and by using old toothbrushes where the soft dome-shaped bristles have become sharp.

Burhenne tells patients who are prone to over-brushing to swap out their toothbrush every month. The same goes for electric toothbrush heads. “The toothbrush is moving at 30,000 cycles per minute and the human hand cannot make that motion, so I would say go to Costco, buy a 12-pack, and replace it every month,” Burhenne said. “The toothbrush head, because of that motion, wears down quicker.”

To keep bacteria at bay before the three or four-month mark hits, store your toothbrush upright in a glass to allow it to air dry. You can also swish it in 100 percent white vinegar, which the researchers from the 2014 study found effectively (and cheaply) wipes out bacteria.

Should You Throw Away Your Toothbrush After Being Sick?

The bacteria that live on a toothbrush after you use it are considered anaerobic — meaning that they will die in the presence of oxygen. So, in general, if you let your toothbrush air dry, it will take care of most bacteria.

Some experts recommend having two toothbrushes and alternating while one dries.

However, after you are sick, the general recommendation is to replace your toothbrush. It’s an easy fix to make sure lingering bacteria doesn’t get passed on to family members. This makes a lot more sense than trying to clean your toothbrush by boiling it or by using hydrogen peroxide or vinegar.

Also avoid storing multiple brushes, such as those of family members, in the same holder or in a drawer together. It’s best if they do not contact each other.

Adapted from: Colgate, Fox News Lifestyle, and Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials

All Star Smiles Foundation is leading the fight against childhood tooth decay in communities nationwide. What began as just an idea in a South Florida dental office has now turned into providing underprivileged children with the dental care they so desperately need. Please join us on our journey of helping all kids have a healthy, happy smile. You can read more about our story HERE.