Reprinted from the American Academy of Periodontology website.
Do you know what car oil and toothbrushes have in common? Both are designed to clean away dirt and contaminants, should be replaced every three months or sooner, and both become ineffective when deterioration sets in. You know when it's time to change your car oil, but do you know when it's time to replace your toothbrush?
Look at the toothbrush. Are the bristles bent or frayed? When was it last replaced? The American Dental Association (ADA) says that toothbrushes should be replaced every 3-4 months, or sooner. When bristles become worn-out, they lose their effectiveness.
In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Dentistry, people were given new and artificially used toothbrushes (these brushes were worn down by a machine to simulate three months of use). The new toothbrushes removed significantly more plaque and gingivitis - the earliest stage of gum disease, than the worn brushes.
In addition to the wear and tear your toothbrush goes through everyday; overtime it also can become contaminated with bacteria, blood, saliva and toothpaste. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is unaware of any adverse health effects directly related to toothbrush use, a recommendation is to rinse the toothbrush thoroughly with water following brushing and to tap off excess water. You may also want to consider the following to protect your toothbrush from bacteria.
- Wash your hands
before and after
- Allow the brush to
air-dry after each use. The bacteria
most harmful will die when exposed
- Store the toothbrush in an upright
position, so water drains from
it and it dries faster.
- Replace it every 3-4 months or
sooner if the bristles appear worn
or you've had a cold or flu to prevent
- Clean the cover or container often to kill potentially harmful bacteria that could cause periodontal diseases, a serious bacterial infection that destroys the attachment fibers and supporting bone that holds teeth in the mouth.
- Share your toothbrush. According
to the CDC, the exchange of
body fluids from sharing toothbrushes
could increase the risk for
- Re-use or share the same disinfecting
solutions or mouthwashes
to disinfect your toothbrushes.
This may lead to cross-contamination.
- Routinely cover toothbrushes or
store in closed containers. This creates
a humid environment that is
more susceptible to bacterial
- Use a community toothbrush
holder. If you must, clean it often,
and make sure the bristles do not
touch one another.
- Touch the toothpaste tube to your toothbrush.