A toothbrush is the most basic tool in ensuring good oral hygiene. Proper maintenance and regular replacement are vital to maintaining its efficiency. Following the recommended guidelines prevent you from developing tooth decay and bad breath. But how often should you change it?

Recommended toothbrush replacement schedule

Dentists and the Center for Disease Control recommend a similar schedule – replacement of toothbrushes every 12 to 16 weeks. This is the average lifespan where a toothbrush can still perform its job.  This is assuming you follow the standard brushing twice daily for two minutes each. When the bristles start to disintegrate and fray, they are no longer effective.  The bristles should be stiff and bounce back to their original shape. Once it stays spreads out, it can no longer clean properly and is better off in the trash. There are circumstances where you may need to change the toothbrush before or beyond 3 to 4 months.

More frequent toothbrush change

  • When you consume more sweets – Sugar is a fertile ground for bacteria to proliferate. It is advisable to brush after a sugar-laden meal. So, if you have a sweet tooth, you should be brushing more than average. The toothbrush bristles will wear out faster this way and may need replacement after 2 months.
  • When someone in the household is sick – Viruses and bacteria can transfer from one toothbrush to another and from the toothbrush to the toothpaste tube. It is thus important that you change the family’s toothbrushes when this happens. The sick person should also get a new toothbrush after recovering from the illness. Bacteria like the one that causes strep throat can live in the toothbrush longer and there’s a risk of reinfection.
  • Children’s toothbrush needs replacement more often. Small kids tend to chew on the toothbrush head. This will deform the bristles quickly.

Less frequent toothbrush change

  • Travel toothbrush – You may have a separate toothbrush for travel or fieldwork. If you don’t use these as often, the integrity of the bristles tends to last longer. These toothbrushes may be replaced for up to 6 months. When traveling, it is important to keep in mind that microorganisms can transfer from other toothbrushes. Always keep the toothbrushes of family members separate from each other. If you need to keep them in the same container, make sure the heads do not touch each other.

Caring for your toothbrush

  • Keeping the toothbrush in a clean container away from contaminants is ideal. Avoid keeping them in the bathroom as bacteria and mildew tend to be higher in a moist environment. Water from the toilet bowl sprays every time you flush and may land on your toothbrush. If you must keep them in the bathroom, make sure to keep the toilet lid down when flushing.
  • Air-dry the toothbrush between uses. Germs rarely survive in a dry environment. Rinse the toothbrush with running water with each use to flush out germ accumulation.
  • Store with the toothbrush heads up. This will drain off any excess water.
  • Do not chew or gnaw on the toothbrush head.
  • Use your own toothbrush. Replace the toothbrush that was erroneously used by others. Our mouths contain different quantities and kinds of microorganisms.
  • Do not reuse a toothbrush that has touched unclean surfaces like the floor or bathroom sink. It is always safer to throw it away and get a new one.
  • Do not wait for 12 weeks to change your toothbrush when there is a visible accumulation of yellowish gunk in the bristles’ base or if black spots are accumulating in the handle. These can harbor harmful bacteria and fungi that can make you sick.
  • Do not store your toothbrush near harmful chemicals. This thing goes into your mouth. We don’t want toxic and abrasive chemicals lacing your bristles. They may cause oral burns or worse, poisoning.

Proper care and storage of your toothbrush go a long way to protect your health. We should always be mindful of our handling of this simple tool that helps us more than we give it credit for.