FAQs About Replacing Your Toothbrush

It probably looks clean, but did you know your toothbrush could be harboring millions of bacteria right now? We use our toothbrushes daily, trusting them to keep our mouths clean and healthy. However, more than 42 percent of people don’t replace their bristles at the recommended time. This seemingly minor neglect can lead to dental health problems, which we will discuss in detail below. Fair warning: the consequences of not replacing your toothbrush may gross you out.


How Often Should I Change My Toothbrush?

Following the American Dental Association’s (ADA’s) recommendations on how often to change your bristles is crucial for your teeth, gums, tongue, and overall oral health. Dental professionals, including Kyrene Family Dentistry and the ADA, recommend replacing your manual toothbrush or electric toothbrush’s bristles every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles look worn, matted, or frayed.

It’s also important to swap out your toothbrush for a fresh one if you’ve been sick with the flu or cold, as germs can linger on the bristles and lead to reinfection.


Why Should I Change My Toothbrush Regularly?

Like bath and body brushes, dishwashing sponges, or any cleaning material – whether used on the body or an inanimate object – toothbrushes accumulate bacteria, fungi, and other harmful microorganisms from the food you eat, the beverages you drink, and the microscopic particles in your bathroom air, which can include fecal matter. Gross fact: 60 percent of toothbrushes in shared bathrooms have traces of poop.

a close up picture of toohbrushes

Changing your toothbrush every three to four months, or as necessary, minimizes the likelihood of something unpleasant entering your mouth.


What Happens if I Don’t Change My Toothbrush?

Let’s take a closer look at what happens when you don’t replace your toothbrush.


1. Bacterial Build-Up

The oral cavity has hundreds of different microorganisms, which can transfer to a toothbrush during use. Over time, toothbrushes become contaminated with bacteria, saliva, blood, and oral debris. The longer you use the same toothbrush, the more bacteria accumulate on the bristles. While many of these are harmless, some can increase the chances of halitosis (bad breath) and illnesses like the flu.


2. Worn-Out and Ineffective Bristles

Is your oral hygiene routine counterproductive? Matted and frayed bristles are less effective at removing plaque and food debris from your oral cavity. This inadequacy can lead to a higher risk of tooth decay and gum disease, as plaque hardens into tartar within 48 hours and can become so hard within a few days that it is almost impossible to remove through brushing and flossing.

In addition, if the bristles are worn or frayed, you are likely exerting more force to achieve a clean feel, unknowingly wearing away enamel and potentially damaging your gums.


3. Reinfection or Spread of Illness

When you’re sick with a bacterial or viral infection, the pathogens can remain on your toothbrush bristles, possibly leading to reinfection or prolonged illness. Moreover, toothbrushes stored next to one another pose a risk of cross-contamination, spreading germs between family members or roommates.

For example, if a case of strep colonizes your toothbrush, you may get strep again. In one study, the bacteria grew and remained on toothbrushes for at least 48 hours. So, replace yours as soon as possible.


What if I Don’t Change My Toothbrush for a Year?

Currently, no clinical research is available on this subject. If you’re generally healthy, nothing too bad or life-threatening will happen, but for all the above reasons — nasty bacteria and germs (including fecal matter that may not even be yours), ineffective brushing that could leave plaque on your teeth, and possible reinfection and cross-contamination — wouldn’t you rather replace your toothbrush than risk experiencing these?


How Do I Take Better Care of My Toothbrush (and Oral Health)?

Here are valuable tips for reducing the risk of getting sick from your toothbrush:

a close up picture of a woman holding a toothbrush

  • Never share your toothbrush or use someone else’s.
  • Rinse the bristles after each use to remove traces of debris.
  • Store your toothbrush upright and away from other surfaces.
  • Allow the bristles to air dry between uses.
  • Clean toothbrush containers and covers every week or two.
  • Keep your toothbrush at least three feet away from the toilet.
  • Pull down the toilet lid before flushing. For hygienic purposes, it’s also ideal to leave the lid down when the toilet is not in use.
  • Swap your toothbrush for a new one every three to four months.
  • Replace your toothbrush after being sick.
  • Brush gently to prevent premature wear of the bristles and to avoid damaging your teeth and gums.


Additional resources: The Sickening Truth About Your Toothbrush and Brushing Mistakes You Should Know About.


How Do I Remember to Replace My Toothbrush on Time?

It can be easy to overlook replacing your toothbrush. Here are some practical strategies to help you keep track:

a close up picture of toothbrushes against a white background

  • New season, new toothbrush: One of the easiest ways to remind yourself to change your toothbrush is to align replacements with the start of a new season.
  • Set a reminder: Use your smartphone or calendar app to set a recurring reminder every three to four months.
  • Mark the date: Write the replacement date on your toothbrush handle with a permanent marker, or place a sticker on your bathroom mirror to remind you.
  • Buy in bulk: Purchase several toothbrushes at once, so you’ll always have a replacement ready.
  • Use subscription services: Sign up for a toothbrush subscription service, which delivers dental hygiene tools to your door at regular intervals, eliminating the need to remember.
  • Household coordination: If you live with family or roommates, establish a schedule to change toothbrushes at the same time.

Implementing one or more of these strategies ensures you always have a fresh and effective toothbrush on hand, contributing to better oral health and hygiene.


Can Kyrene Family Dentistry Remind Me to Change My Toothbrush?

Absolutely! At Kyrene Family Dentistry, we can remind you to replace your toothbrush regularly and provide comprehensive dental care to keep your smile healthy. Our services include routine check-ups, professional cleanings, fluoride treatments, personalized oral hygiene tips, and much more. Let us help your entire family maintain healthy and captivating smiles — schedule your appointment today to experience the full range of our expert care.