​How Often Should You Change Your Toothbrush?

toothbrushIf you’re like most people, your parents and your dentist have repeatedly told you that you need to change your toothbrush every so often. The keyword being “every so often” is somewhat vague and subjective. We’re going to look at exactly what kind of toothbrush you should buy as well as clear up any misconceptions regarding the timeline to change your toothbrush.

Soft, Medium, or Hard?

If you’ve walked down the oral care aisle of your local drugstore lately, you’ve seen the wide variety of toothbrushes on the market. From ones with a conventional head (that’s shaped like a rectangle with rounded corners) to ones with a diamond head, it’s sometimes confusing to know which toothbrush to buy.

Generally speaking, the one with a diamond shaped head can get into hard-to-reach places inside your mouth. Some newer brushes will come with bristles of varying sizes and shapes. Their purpose is to give the brush a more effective clean and by varying the size and shape of the bristles, you can cover more surface area of your teeth. This will enable a more effective clean when you brush your teeth.

Then you have the hardness of the bristles: soft, medium, hard. The majority of dentists recommend you use a soft-bristled brush if you have sensitive teeth and gums. If there is a significant buildup of plaque, you may want to consider a medium brush for a more effective cleaning.

There’s really no good reason for selecting a toothbrush with hard bristles. While some people claim to prefer hard bristles, they can cause more harm than good by removing tooth enamel due to improper brushing. Several scientific studies have been performed on the damage that improper brushing of one’s teeth can cause.

Physical Damage

If your toothbrush has frayed or splayed bristles, it’s long overdue for a change. Damaged bristles can do more harm than good. Considering toothbrushes are relatively inexpensive, you should run out and buy a new one if you notice any physical damage to it.

The same goes for the heads of electric toothbrushes. The instructions of the manufacturer will give you a “change date”. It’s best to follow their recommended suggestions. Don’t try to stretch it out, thinking you’re going to save a buck or two.

Germs and the Toilet

When you flush your toilet, the swirling vortex of water shoots microscopic water droplets as high as 10” into the air. These droplets of water can contain viruses such as E. coli and Staph. They can stay airborne for up to 30 minutes, and some of them can even find their way onto your toothbrush.

If you can help it, move your toothbrush holder to the far side of your bathroom counter (away from the toilet) and your sink. When you wash your hands, microscopic germs can go airborne and land on your toothbrush.

There are relatively inexpensive toothbrush holders on the market that have a top or cap. They will prevent airborne germs from the toilet getting onto your toothbrush.

If you drop your toothbrush on the floor, there is no such thing as a “5 second rule”. Bacteria and viruses that are tracked in by your shoes have their suitcases in hand and when a toothbrush hits the floor, they hop on board for a quick ride into your mouth.

When you flush your toilet, do it with the lid down. It will contain the microscopic spray that occurs with every flush.

Preventative Maintenance

Every so often, take your toothbrush and dip it into a cup of hydrogen peroxide or mouthwash (the ones with anti-bacterial agents). If you accidentally drop your toothbrush on the ground, a 30 second or so rinse in a cup of hydrogen peroxide should sterilize it enough.

Some people go as far as putting their toothbrush in the dishwasher on occasion. If this seems like something you’d like to try, try putting it on the top rack of the dishwasher just to be safe. The “heat” cycle gets extremely hot and is enough to kill the germs.

Try not to store your toothbrush in an air-tight container. This could cause the brush to dry out and ideal conditions for mold to form.

Sick or Not Feeling Well?

If a loved one is sick or not feeling well, make sure that the toothbrush heads are not touching each other when you store them. That’s the quickest way to get whatever bug they have. If you yourself aren’t feeling too good, make sure to change your toothbrush when you start feeling better. The germs you had prior will be all over your toothbrush and could cause a 2nd round of not feeling well to occur.


Dentists suggest that you change your toothbrush every 3-4 months. If damage occurs or if it falls on the floor, change it immediately. By keeping in mind these simple preventative maintenance tips, you will keep your mouth germ free and your toothbrush in proper working condition.

Dentists also suggest you have a professional teeth cleaning performed at least once a year. All the brushing in the world can’t make up for a proper dental cleaning, as dentists have specialized tools that get in the nooks and crannies a toothbrush can’t.

At Water Tower Dental Care, we specialize in helping our patients look and feel their best. Give us a call at (312) 787-2131 to schedule an appointment to get your teeth cleaned. You’ll walk out of our offices with a squeaky clean look and feel to your mouth.