Most dentists, and the American Dental Association (ADA), recommend changing your toothbrush every 3 months. Over time, toothbrushes go through normal wear and tear and become less effective with removing plaque from teeth and gums. Studies have found that around 3 months is when the bristles break down and lose effectiveness.
One other consideration we don’t typically think about (and probably don’t like to think about) is that germs can hide and build up in toothbrush bristles. This makes it important to replace your toothbrush after you’ve had a cold, or risk possible reinfection.
Fungus and bacteria can also develop in the bristles if not taken care of properly. After use, make sure you rinse off and dry your toothbrush thoroughly, storing uncovered in an upright position and keeping it away from other used toothbrushes. When traveling, be sure to cover your toothbrush head to protect it and reduce the spread of germs.
If you can’t remember exactly how long it’s been, pay particular attention to the condition your toothbrush head is in – whether the bristles are worn out, fan out, or frayed, or especially if you see dark color changes, which is a sign of mold.
If knowing that bacteria and fungus accumulates on your toothbrush bristles overtime isn’t enough reason to replace your toothbrush more often, there are also a number of other risks and uninviting issues involved with not replacing your toothbrush. One risk includes damaging your gums, as old toothbrushes become ineffective with removing plaque from your teeth, which leads to gingivitis. Left untreated, gingivitis leads to infection, which can cause teeth to fall out.
Ask your dentist during your next dental checkup and cleaning for recommendations about what you should be buying based off your individual needs, your particular dental health state, etc.
Some common suggestions among dental professionals are to look for toothbrushes with soft bristles, as hard bristles damage your teeth and gums, choose a toothbrush head size that touches one or two teeth at a time, use a toothpaste containing fluoride approved by the ADA, consider using mouthwash to further fight plaque and gingivitis, and don’t forget floss!
Consider investing in an electric toothbrush, as these have been proven to improve oral health beyond what a manual toothbrush can do by removing plaque, reducing gingivitis and eliminating teeth staining. They’ve also been shown to minimize the amount of plaque on the teeth of people with periodontal disease.