a woman brushing her teeth

While everyone knows that no one toothbrush can last forever, many people may wonder or be unsure about how often their toothbrushes should be replaced. It may be surprising to learn that according to dentist recommendations and the guidelines by toothbrush manufacturers, a toothbrush should ideally be replaced every 3 to 4 months.

That being said, some situations might require that a toothbrush be replaced more often. When a toothbrush (or electric toothbrush head) isn’t replaced regularly, it can become less effective and can affect your oral health.

How do you Know when Your Toothbrush Needs to be Replaced?

Manual Toothbrush

Brushing twice (or more) daily is considered standard practice when using a manual toothbrush. With this rate of regular use, toothbrush bristles will begin to become broken or mangled or fall out within 12-16 weeks.

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) also recommends replacing your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months, or sooner Trusted Source, or sooner if it appears to be getting worn out.

The toothbrush is ready for the trash when the bristles have lost their stiffness. Without the stiffness of the bristles to remove food and plaque, your toothbrush will simply not work efficiently.

Electric Toothbrush

The head of an electric toothbrush effectively cleans the surfaces of the teeth by rotating and vibrating quickly. Like a manual toothbrush, an electric toothbrush head also has nylon bristles that can become worn with regular use. In addition, the bristles on an electric toothbrush head are shorter, causing them to fray more quickly.

Ideally, you should plan to change the head on your electric toothbrush every 3 months, or sooner if needed. Keep an eye on the bristles for signs of wear and tear to give you an idea of when it’s time to toss the brush head.

What Are Some Other Reasons to Replace Your Toothbrush?

If you or a family member have experienced an illness, replacing your toothbrush once you have recovered is a good idea. You may also want to replace the toothbrushes of the other members of the household. Some bacterial and viral infections can be particularly concerning and are always a good reason to replace toothbrushes to avoid spreading these infections (or becoming reinfected.)

In some cases, toothbrushes for young children may need to be replaced more often, as some children will chew on the head and bristles causing the toothbrush to become less effective in a short time. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on children when they brush their teeth to ensure they aren’t placing their toothbrushes on any other surfaces other than their teeth.

One other reason to replace your toothbrush sooner than usual is if someone other than you has used your toothbrush accidentally. In this case, it’s better to be safe than sorry, as each mouth has different bacteria in it.

How Should I Take Care of My Toothbrush?

You should take care of your toothbrush the same way you would care for any personal care or hygiene tool. You shouldn’t ever share your toothbrush with someone else, even your partner or other members of your household. If you store your toothbrush in a container or cup with other toothbrushes, it is important to try not to let the heads come into contact with each other.

When you have finished brushing, you should rinse your toothbrush thoroughly with warm water. It is not necessary to sanitize your toothbrush with a disinfectant, mouthwash, or very hot water.

A special closed container to keep your toothbrush clean (when not in use) is also unnecessary. In fact, some of these containers may encourage the growth of mold or bacteria.

What if I Don’t Replace My Toothbrush Regularly?

Each time you brush your teeth, the nylon bristles of the toothbrush are exposed to water and the chemicals in your toothpaste. This results in the bristles becoming a little weaker with each use. Over time, the bristles will bend and twist into a new, flared shape, which is referred to as “bristle flaring.” Studies have shown that those who don’t replace their toothbrush regularly experience significantly more plaque buildup, which over time can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. Replacing your toothbrush regularly, just like flossing and brushing daily and visiting your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups, is an important part of a strong oral health practice. If you want to learn more about toothbrushes and how we can support your oral health and wellness, contact our Guelph Dentists office today!

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