How to Take Care of Your Toothbrush

How to Take Care of Your Toothbrush

While we all know that the humble toothbrush is the basic, most essential instrument in maintaining oral hygiene and health, we may not be letting it do its job effectively. In fact, neglecting the condition of your brush can actually have a detrimental effect on oral health! The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends replacing your toothbrush at least every three to four months. But during that time, taking proper care of it will allow your brush to deliver optimal benefits. Continue reading to learn how you can help it help you even better!

Tips for Your Toothbrush

First, we at NK Family Dental want to emphasize the importance of replacing your toothbrush on a regular basis. As our blog post – “When to Replace Your Toothbrush” – notes, people are busy and tend to forget when they buy a toothbrush – then don’t think about it again in the daily routine of brushing their teeth. For that reason, if you’re reading this and don’t remember when you bought your toothbrush, it’s time for a new one!

However, the three-to-four-month replacement guideline only applies to manual toothbrushes. Heads for electric toothbrushes should be replaced somewhat sooner. “In general, you should replace the head of your electric toothbrush every 12 weeks,” says Dr. Mark Stapleton of White Oak Dental. “This should be done more often than for a manual toothbrush because electric brushes often have shorter bristles. For this reason, they tend to become worn down more quickly and must be replaced sooner.”

Some brands of manual toothbrushes and electric toothbrush heads have bristles with colors that fade to indicate it’s time to replace them. This is a helpful visual cue, but don’t depend on it. Instead, look at the bristles themselves for signs of wear and replace them when they’re frayed – even if before the recommended time. If you have children, pay attention to their toothbrushes, as well. Because kids tend to brush more vigorously than adults, their toothbrushes can wear out faster.

Word of advice – Aggressive brushing can damage enamel and irritate gums. As you teach your children to brush, instruct them in proper technique and supervise until you’re sure they know how to brush effectively. Also, check your own brushing technique to avoid – or correct – this bad habit in yourself!

Keeping Your Toothbrush Clean

If you’re like most people, you brush your teeth in the bathroom – in which resides that essential plumbing fixture, the toilet. It’s an overall good hygienic practice to close the lid before flushing to prevent the “toilet plume” effect that invisibly spews such bacteria as E. coli and staphylococci (staph) into the air. Researchers at the University of Manchester, England, report that the typical toothbrush is home to more than 100 million bacteria. On a reassuring note, according to OnHealth, you probably won’t get an infection from your own toothbrush. “Even if your brush is covered in bacteria, your immune system can usually take care of any bacterial invaders. However, you should still care for your toothbrush properly and keep it clean.”

Your toothbrush gets covered by toothpaste, which cleans your teeth – but this doesn’t clean the brush itself! Immediately after brushing, run the bristles under warm running water and gently rub them to remove any food particles that may be stuck between them. As far as additional cleaning goes, Hill Country Dental Surgery provides the following tips. Please note that you don’t have to perform all of these actions – this is just a list of options that you can choose among.

  • Dilute two teaspoons of baking soda in one cup of water to make a soaking solution for your toothbrush.
  • Soak bristles in vinegar weekly.
  • Mix one teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide in one cup of water and stir the toothbrush in the solution for several minutes.
  • Soak your toothbrush in an antibacterial mouthwash for half a minute.

After every use and additional cleaning, shake off excess water and store it upright in a toothbrush holder so the bristles air dry. This helps prevent bacterial growth. Using a bacteria-ridden toothbrush increases your risk of developing dental problems. Also, never lay your toothbrush flat on your sink and leave it in this position – or use a toothbrush cover or travel case unless you’re traveling.

If you travel, store your toothbrush in a holder when you reach your destination– then make sure the bristles are dry before putting it back in the case when you prepare to leave. As this may not be possible – for example, if you have a short amount of time between brushing your teeth and leaving for the airport – throw the brush away when you return home.

Next, some common-sense advice:

  • Don’t share your toothbrush with another person – not even your nearest-and-dearest! Sharing toothbrushes increases your risk for transferring bacteria and germs, which increases your risk for developing oral health issues – including tooth decay.
  • No matter how new it may be, replace your toothbrush if you’ve been sick – especially if your toothbrush is stored close to other toothbrushes. You may risk re-infecting yourself or infecting others in your household.
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly before brushing your teeth. Various types of bacteria live on the surfaces you touch. Not washing can transfer them to your toothbrush and mouth.

The Take-Home Message

Good oral health starts at home, but you need a dentist to perform regular examinations and cleanings to help you keep your smile for a lifetime! At NK Family Dental, it is our mission to provide the highest quality and most compassionate oral care to our Chicago patients, including both dental and periodontal services. Our dental specialists include our general dentist, Dr. Nilofer Khan, our endodontist, Dr. Sabek, and our periodontist, Dr. Amir Danesh

We serve the neighborhoods of Logan Square, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, and Wicker Park with the dedication that’s earned us the reputation as the Best Dentist in Chicago!

 We understand that the main concern you may have is cost, which is why we accept all major PPO plans for dental insurance and also offer our in-house dental plan. Please see our financing page for more information.

Schedule your visit through ZocDoc, or contact us directly. We look forward to treating you soon! 


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