Many dental hygienists recommend toothbrush replacement about every three months; the American Dental Association recommends every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed.
Why is it so important to replace your toothbrush regularly? Isn’t it enough to be brushing at all? You’d be surprised that the answer is: no. Even with the best toothbrush, frayed bristles are not as effective at cleaning away plaque as new bristles. If you brush with these less effective bristles, you may be missing plaque and debris. Changing out that toothbrush will ensure that it’s doing its best to keep your mouth clean and healthy.
The same guideline goes for electric toothbrushes with replaceable heads – make sure that you get a new head every three or four months. Kids tend to brush more aggressively than adults, so their toothbrushes may need to be replaced more often. Similarly, individuals who have braces generally fray their bristles more quickly and therefore will need more frequent brush replacement. It’s also recommended that you replace your toothbrush after recovering from a cold so that you reduce your chances of reinfection.
Just as important as having a fresh toothbrush is having a clean toothbrush. Make sure you run the brush head through tap water once you’re done brushing to wash away leftover toothpaste and saliva. Then, store it in a vertical position to allow the bristles to dry properly. If you need to use a toothbrush cover (say, if you’re traveling), do not put it on while the brush is still wet – storing it while it’s still wet can allow bacteria to build up. Giving your brush the proper care can help it last a bit longer.
If you have trouble remembering when to replace your toothbrush, the next time you break out a new one, do some quick math and write down the date you’ll need to replace it on the bottom of the brush in permanent marker. It can also help to change toothbrushes with the changing of the seasons – four seasons at three months each equals a new toothbrush for each season.