Most of us might think it’s time to replace our toothbrush when it starts to look frayed and worn. However, waiting until the bristles are mangled and fuzzy is too late. As bristles wear down they lose their effectiveness, reducing their ability to scrape off plaque from the teeth and gum line.
A good rule of thumb is to replace the brush every three to four months. This keeps you using the brush until the bristles just start to lose their effectiveness. On the flip side, if your brush isn’t looking used in four months, you may not be brushing long enough. Two minutes is the recommended time for a thorough cleaning and for fluoride uptake by enamel.
Everyone gets sick sooner or later. Hopefully, if you do happen to have a virus, you continue to practice good oral heath habits (as much as possible!). Some people voice concerns that their toothbrush can become infected and be unusable after an illness. Don’t worry, even old, worn out toothbrushes won’t be much of a nesting ground for infectious germs.
Studies from the ADA have shown toothbrushes do not harbor germs and typically won’t reinfect a person, even after he or she has suffered a severe cold or flu. A toothbrush carries germs from the moment it comes out of the package. It’s ok though because bacteria is a part of our lives, and we have natural mechanisms to fight them, including enzymes in our mouths.
Some people heat a brush every now and then thinking they will kill any lingering germs from an illness. This is not a good idea as boiling water can destroy the bristles, as will putting a toothbrush in the microwave or dishwasher.
Hot water will not make something cleaner, and in this case, might warp the bristles on your toothbrush. Nice straight bristles will be most effective in cleaning the teeth and gums, not warped ones. As long as you rinse the toothpaste off and let the brush air dry, it will be clean. Don’t use a travel cap to store your brush after using it as it can maintain a moist environment and potentially breed bacteria. Also, don’t bother with products that claim to kill germs on your brush. No toothbrush-cleaning product has been shown to be fully sterilizing, according to the ADA.
We’ve all been there. You walk down that aisle at the grocery or drug store and see what seems to be hundreds of toothbrushes to choose from.
Which one is best? Do I need the one with the flexible handle? What about those side bristles at a crazy angle? Can that one with the extra long tip really clean behind my back teeth? Does the 99 cent store brand stand up to the 4 dollar name brand.
In some cases you do get what you pay for, but typically you just need to look for one that has the ADA seal of approval, has ‘soft’ bristles and fits your personal preference.
Remember that your semiannual checkups with your dentist will confirm if you’re brushing properly and often will provide you with two of the four toothbrushes you should be using each year, for free! Schedule an appointment today.