Like razors, running shoes, and kitchen scrubbers, you are supposed to change your toothbrush regularly, every three to four months (or sooner if the bristles are visibly worn or frayed), depending on dentists.
But if your toothbrush appears to be in good shape, or if you have an electric toothbrush with expensive replacement heads, is it okay to keep it for longer or are you putting your dental health at risk?
- 1 New toothbrushes work better than old ones
- 2 Dangers of using a toothbrush for too long
- 3 How often should it be changed?
- 4 How to use it correctly?
- 5 5 characteristics to consider in a toothbrush
New toothbrushes work better than old ones
The main difference appears to be due to the stiffness, sharpness, and straightness of the individual bristles. Research indicates that worn-out brushes with spaced or dull bristles are less effective at removing plaque and preventing gum recession than new toothbrushes.
In other words: an old toothbrush just doesn’t clean your teeth and can even be bad news for your gums. And this is true whether you have a manual or electric toothbrush.
Dangers of using a toothbrush for too long
The health of your teeth and gums can suffer
Brushing prevents gum disease by removing plaque that forms around the gum line.
If plaque deposits are not broken down regularly, they can absorb minerals from saliva and form a hard substance called tartar , which cannot be removed with a brush or dental floss. Chronic inflammation caused by stone deposits on or below the gum line is what leads to periodontal disease .
Now this is where your toothbrush comes in. A visibly worn brush is less effective at removing plaque, especially below the gum line. Persistent plaque opens the door to a host of oral health complications, including tooth decay , gingivitis, and eventually gum disease .
Old brushes are a nest of bacteria
The older your brush, the more germs it harbors. A small study in August 2015, published in the Journal of Natural Sciences, Biology and Medicine, determined that three months toothbrushes had heavy bacterial contamination (including fecal matter!) Compared to brushes that had been used for a single month.
However, before you freak out: experts say there is no evidence that these bacteria cause adverse health effects.
How often should it be changed?
When it comes to toothbrushes, age is just a number. The recommendation to replace the brush after three to four months is approximate, but the condition is more important than exactly how long you’ve been using it.
The wear depends on the habits of the user, such as the frequency and duration of its use, brushing and technical force. A November 2013 clinical study published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene showed different levels of toothbrush use after three months of use.
The study showed that brushes that are visibly more worn are less effective at removing plaque than brushes that appeared less worn, while brushes with very little visible wear are almost as effective as new brushes. From this and other studies, it appears that the age of the toothbrush is not as important for plaque removal as the wear of the bristles , especially when they are visibly bent and extended.
What is the problem with the bristles changing color?
Some toothbrushes have tinted bristles to remind users when to change them. Once the bristles fade, it’s time to get a new brush.
Although this can be a useful visual element, the most important indicator for replacing a toothbrush will always be the condition of the bristles. If the color is still vibrant, but the bristles are worn, it’s time for a change.
Also, keep in mind that not all brightly colored bristles reflect wear, so be sure to read the label.
How to use it correctly?
First, make sure you buy a quality-labeled toothbrush. This seal confirms that these brushes are tested to ensure that the bristles do not fall out with normal use.
If your brush has the seal of approval, then excessive wear at first could be a sign that you are using too much force to clean your teeth. According to experts, many people brush their teeth too vigorously, which can cause gum irritation , bleeding, and injury , leading to infection , recession, and trauma . Brushing too hard can also cause the enamel to wear down faster , which is irreversible once the damage is done.
You don’t need to apply a lot of pressure when brushing. Bring the tips of the bristles at a 45 degree angle to the gum line and brush in a gentle circular motion; then move the brush along the tooth away from the gum line.
Then gently move the brush back and forth in short strokes (across the teeth). To clean the inner surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up and down strokes. Finally, brush the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Do this for 2 minutes twice a day .
5 characteristics to consider in a toothbrush
From sensors to antibacterial light therapy to smartphone connectivity, the toothbrush market is awash with state-of-the-art accessories. Here’s how to examine everything you can find in a toothbrush for the qualities that really improve your dental health.
Experts strongly recommend soft bristles over medium and hard bristles as they will continue to clean your teeth excellently without damaging the enamel or gums.
A 2011 study, from Oral Health and Preventive Dentistry, found that even though medium-sized bristles scraped more plaque than softer ones, they also created more micro-tears along the gums.
Additionally, stiff bristles exacerbate the common mistake of brushing too aggressively.
With round ends
It is also suggested that toothbrushes with rounded tips pulverize plaque better than those with sharp or pointed tips.
A June 2012 report, published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene, compared the different variety of bristles: flat and straight, multi-tiered (with some bristles placed higher than others), and angled (where certain bristles are slanted) . Angled bristle brushes removed most of the plaque.
A compact brush head
It is recommended that each surface of each tooth be brushed, and a brush with a small head can make it easier to achieve that goal.
If the head is too large, you may not be able to reach all areas of your mouth easily, which means that you will not get a proper cleaning.
An electric toothbrush
A battery-powered brush is worth investing in. A systematic review and meta-analysis in the February 2020 issue of the International Journal of Dental Hygiene confirmed that an electric type removes more plaque than an old-school toothbrush.
After three months of use, electric toothbrushes removed 21 percent more plaque than manual toothbrushes and caused an 11 percent decrease in gingivitis.
In addition, it has been found that people using electric toothbrushes had healthy gums , experienced less progression of gum disease, and 20 percent more teeth were retained than people using regular toothbrushes.
That said, you can still do a good job cleaning without spending money on a tech-savvy model. With the correct brushing technique, manual and electric toothbrushes have been shown in clinical studies to be effective in removing plaque.