For the most part, common dental issues can be prevented with proper, consistent use of your toothbrush. Yet, the state of your toothbrush can determine how effective it is at cleaning and protecting your teeth. If you don’t care for it well, your toothbrush may cause more harm than good to your teeth and soft gingival tissues (gums). Make sure you’re taking good care of your toothbrush by following a few guidelines from your friendly neighborhood dentist!
Using Your Toothbrush
- The first step to good toothbrush care begins at the store where you buy it. Be sure to choose a soft-bristled toothbrush with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance on its package. Harsher bristles, such as those advertised as animal hair brushes, can scrape away weakened enamel—the protective layer of minerals around your teeth—and leave your teeth vulnerable to bacteria and tooth decay.
- Spot-brushing only the parts of your teeth that look or feel grimy will not adequately clean your teeth. You may not always feel dental plaque (a byproduct of oral bacteria), and if you neglect to brush it away, it can calcify (harden) into tartar. Once calcified, tartar can’t be removed with your toothbrush, and your risk of developing cavities and gum disease increases exponentially.
- The frequency with which you brush your teeth is also a vital aspect of good dental health. We recommend brushing and flossing at least twice every day to keep up with the pace of plaque accumulation. When possible, brush your teeth 20-30 minutes after eating, as well.
Storing Your Toothbrush
- If you have a toothbrush holder that completely conceals your toothbrush, be sure not to seal the brush in the holder with wet bristles. The moisture and lack of oxygen can create a hospitable environment for fungi and bacteria to develop on your toothbrush’s bristles. Thoroughly dry your toothbrush after every use, and leave the cap slightly open to allow air to flow through the brush holder.
- Store your toothbrush as far away from the toilet as possible to avoid cross-contamination. Also, wash your hands before picking up your toothbrush to prevent germs from migrating to the brush and bristles.
- Over time, your toothbrush will lose its effectiveness as its bristles become worn and frayed. To keep your brush performing at its finest, change it at least once every three months, or as soon as the bristles show noticeable signs of wear and tear.