Everything wears out with time, especially items most people use on a daily basis. When tires lose their treads or a charging cable stops working, it’s easy to see that they need a replacement. However, the same can’t always be said for toothbrushes! Many patients don’t know when their most basic tool for oral health loses its effectiveness and begins to cause more harm than good.
At Allred Dental, we know how important it is to maintain excellent oral hygiene between visits. That’s why we educate patients of all ages about cavity-fighting practices, such as replacing toothbrushes regularly. If you have questions about your dental health, contact us to schedule a consultation today!
Dirty Dental Tools
Most people know you shouldn’t stick something gross into your mouth. Bacteria and other germs tend to hang out on even the cleanest-looking implements, especially when those items reside in one of the most well-used rooms in the house! Toothbrushes are no exception, building up gunk from frequent use. That’s why they should be exchanged for fresh ones every three months.
The Allred Dental team tells our patients that brushing for two minutes at least twice a day is the best way to fight plaque and gingivitis. That equals around two hours of hard work for those bristles every month! Using a toothbrush that has outlived its usefulness may be counterproductive, spreading germs and bacteria throughout your mouth when it’s supposed to be cleaning teeth. Some of the most important reasons you should switch toothbrushes regularly include:
- Damaged Bristles: The bristles are the business end of your toothbrush, gently scrubbing your gums and teeth to remove plaque buildup and prevent decay. With time, they become rough, scratchy and flattened, making them much less effective at their job. This can lead to bacteria growth and gingivitis, and may even damage gums and scour tooth enamel.
- Biological Contaminants: A dirty toothbrush may become a safe harbor for bacteria and other germs. Even worse, mold and mildew may begin to form the longer your toothbrush remains sitting in your bathroom! Not only can this be counterproductive by adding bacteria onto the teeth you’re trying to clean, but it can even make you sick.
- Crusty Buildup: Improperly cleansing your oral hygiene tools may lead to a buildup of old toothpaste between bristles. This makes the bristles stiff and may hold on to bacteria that can grow between brushings. If the bristles are clogged in a congealed mass of hardened toothpaste, it may be time for a change.
- Travel Storage: The last thing you want when traveling is to have your wet toothbrush knocking around your suitcase. Using a container to keep it separate may actually make your toothbrush a breeding ground for bacteria. If you’ve been on the road for a while, it may be a good idea to toss that particular traveling companion into the trash.
No matter the reason, experts have determined the safest way to ensure your teeth get the best treatment from your at-home dental tools is to replace your toothbrush at least every three months. If you’re keeping up with your biannual office visits at Allred Dental, you’ll only need a single reminder between appointments to grab a new one!
Signs It’s Time for a Change
You may think that your toothbrush is doing just fine, even if you can’t remember exactly when you got it. While a three-month schedule may make it easier to remember, there are quite a few signs that your favorite tooth scrubber is on its way out.
- Smells: Bad odors are a sign of bacterial growth. Many times the minty-fresh scent of toothpaste can disguise any foul aromas, so giving the bristles a quick sniff before you start may draw attention to any foulness.
- Frayed/Flattened Bristles: Any good brush is going to wear out its bristles eventually. Once they become too ragged, the toothbrush becomes much less effective at removing tartar buildup.
- Braces: Patients with orthodontics know they have to work much harder to ensure their teeth stay clean and fresh. That means their toothbrushes get much more use, too. Such clients may find they need to change their teeth-cleaning equipment on a much more frequent basis.
- Sickness: Most people still manage to brush their teeth when they're sick. While oral hygiene is always good practice, holding onto your toothbrush post-illness isn’t a great idea. It can harbor leftover germs and other nastiness that’s best left in the trash.
- Not Feeling Clean: If you’ve just spent the suggested two minutes brushing, yet your teeth still feel like they’re wearing woolen sweaters, you may need a new toothbrush. The more worn out the brush is, the less plaque it will be able to scrub away.
While these are definitely indications that your toothbrush is on its way out, you’ll still want to consider finding a replacement if it’s been in use for around three months. This guarantees you’ll have the right tool for the job every time.
Of course, no toothbrush is going to be in tip-top shape if it isn’t kept clean. Fortunately, the best way to keep it germ-free is simply to rinse it and let it air dry after each use. This washes away any leftover toothpaste and gunk while keeping it out in the open prevents bacteria from forming in a dark, moist environment.
Some people turn to the disinfecting power of the dishwasher to keep their toothbrushes looking like new, but this may lead to a number of problems. Dishwashers generally use very hot water that may prematurely fray or even melt brush bristles. In addition, soaps and other chemicals may coat the toothbrush head, giving you an unintended and possibly dangerous cleanser to your regular oral hygiene routine!
Finding the Right Replacement
When toothbrushes first arrived on the scene in the late 1930s, the choices between nylon-bristled options were very limited. Today, major brands manufacture a variety of products with features that promise they’ll almost brush your teeth for you! It can be difficult to sort through all of the alternatives, so here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for your replacement.
- Bristle Hardness: Toothbrush bristles come in a few different varieties, ranging from soft to hard. Featuring thicker nylon threads, hard-bristled brushes may actually damage teeth while cleaning them. Choosing soft bristles will help to gently scrub plaque away instead of harming tooth enamel and gums.
- Brush Head Size: Ideally, you want to be comfortable when brushing your teeth. Look for a toothbrush with a heat that can brush one or two teeth at a time, especially when looking for options to fit smaller mouths. If the toothbrush is too large, you’ll find it difficult to clean those hard-to-get places successfully.
- Straight vs Rounded: Many people don’t realize that some companies cut their nylon bristles in different ways. Straight-cut nylon has sharp edges, which may lead to abrasions even with soft-bristled varieties. Choosing rounded options will help avoid any rough cuts from the factory.
- Expert-Approved: The American Dental Association (ADA) takes pains to ensure oral hygiene products meet their high standards. This includes ensuring bristles aren’t sharp and are well secured so they won’t fall out during frequent brushings. Choosing a toothbrush that has the ADA seal of approval means it’s been tested to provide you with a safe and productive cleaning.
Manual or Electric?
The most important aspect of brushing your teeth is that you actually do it. For some patients, the traditional nylon-bristled handheld option works best. Others gravitate towards mechanical options to fulfill their teeth cleaning needs. The good news is that both camps are correct, as manual and electric toothbrushes are both very effective at removing plaque and fighting gum disease. Choosing between either option comes down to a matter of taste between a few factors.
- Personal Preference
Electric models can clear away plaque just as well as their manual counterparts. Mechanical options may cost more and require replacement heads just as often as traditional toothbrushes. Even so, the added price tag may be worth it if it helps patients clean their teeth more easily. In addition, people with limited mobility may find it easier to use automatic varieties to relieve the stress of repetitive actions. As long as you’re brushing for two minutes twice a day, both styles will help keep your mouth feeling fresh and clean!
No matter which type of toothbrush you choose neither can completely remove plaque from around your teeth. Don’t forget that, alongside brushing, using dental floss is the most productive method for complete oral hygiene. Even if the packaging suggests it has special bristles that will get deep between teeth while you brush, it’s still not as good as taking care of flossing yourself.
Professional Care from Allred Dental
Replacing your toothbrush regularly will go a long way to help keep your smile looking and feeling great. While it’s your job to keep your teeth clean between visits, the team at Allred Dental has you covered for your biannual checkups. If it’s time for a cleaning, schedule an appointment today!