When Should I Replace My Old Toothbrush?

Brushing your teeth frequently is important in maintaining a healthy smile. That bright, white smile will not last long, however, if you don’t take care of your toothbrush. The most important thing about toothbrush maintenance is changing out the old one for a new one when the time is appropriate. But how do you know when to make the change?

Dirty Toothbrush

What’s Your Toothbrush IQ?

Let’s take a quiz: How many of the following apply to you?

  1. A) I have no idea how long I’ve been using my current toothbrush.
  2. B) I’ll just wait until the bristles are all smashed down. That’s the time to get another one.
  3. C) The toothbrush is still good as long as it has a few bristles that haven’t fallen out.
  4. D) I just use my spouse’s toothbrush. They don’t seem to mind (but they probably don’t know either).
  5. E) My toothbrush was a complementary gift from the hotel I stayed at last year. I can’t wait to get a new one when I go on vacation again.
  6. F) My dentist gives me one when I go in for a checkup. I just use that.

If any of those statements apply to you, you just might have a hard time letting go of your toothbrush and your smile could be in jeopardy. Just like your mother convinced you to let go of your blanket or favorite stuffed animal when you were three, I promise that you’ll be better off if you get rid of that fuzzy worn-out toothbrush.

Some Recommendations to Follow

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you replace your toothbrush at least every three to four months or even sooner if the bristles become worn. This recommendation is for toothbrushes with soft or extra soft bristles. If you’re using a brush that has medium or hard bristles, throw it away now. Even though it would technically last longer than a soft brush, the damage you’re doing to your teeth it is not worth it.

The problem with worn and frayed toothbrushes is that they cannot clean your teeth as effectively as a new brush. Regardless of whether your toothbrush is electric or manual, worn-out bristles are not able to clean in all of the nooks and crannies between teeth and around gums effectively. Plaque will build up in your mouth much more rapidly if you are using an old brush. Check your brush and your kids’ brushes frequently and immediately replace them if necessary. Also realize that children’s toothbrushes may have to get replaced a lot more often because kids are quite hard on their brushes. Make certain all of your family’s toothbrushes are ADA approved.

Take Action

If you have a hard time remembering to change your toothbrush, consider the following suggestions:

  • Buy brushes that have color indicators. As the bristles become faded, they change color, giving you an alert that you need a new brush.
  • Take out your smart phone now and set a notification in your calendar every three months to change your toothbrush. It will take you less than two minutes to set up reminders for the next couple years.
  • When you pick up a new toothbrush from the grocery store, buy a bunch of them. Many people probably have good intentions of replacing their brush regularly but only think of it while standing at the sink. You’ll always forget to buy things at the store, so buying brushes in bulk will allow you to replace your toothbrush when you need to, and not let you use the “I forgot to pick one up” excuse.

Replacing your toothbrush appropriately is much cheaper and easier than going through the pain and expense of cavities and other dental problems. Show your teeth some love and get rid of that old brush!

-Nicolas K Young, DMD