Changing Your Brush Head: Why and How Often?

Dentists recommend that you change your toothbrush head every few months, but 8 out of 10 Americans ignore this advice. It’s just another one of those troublesome little chores that we inevitably forget about, like changing the filter trap on your washing machine or the oil in your car.

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But if you knew how much damage that unchanged brush head was doing to your oral hygiene, you might be more inclined to follow this advice. Here are just a few reasons why you need to change your brush head regularly:

 Germs Accumulate

Every time you brush, you’re scrubbing away bacteria particles that can stick to the bristles. Over time, these propagate and accumulate, thriving in the damp, warm conditions and creating the perfect breeding ground for harmful organisms.

There are a few things you can do to reduce bacteria build-up, but none are 100% effective, and none should prevent you from replacing your brush head:

 1. Keep your toothbrush out of the bathroom: It may be the most convenient location, but it’s also the perfect environment for bacteria. You spread bacteria when you use the toilet, you create a warm and humid environment when you shower or draw a bath, and your brush is constantly near dirty hands and surfaces.

2. Clean your toothbrush holder: Have you ever removed all toothbrushes from their holder and looked at what has accumulated in the bottom? You’ll likely find a thick sludge consisting of moisture from a hundred brushes and bacteria from countless flushes. It’s not pleasant.

3. Use mouthwash: Toothbrush sanitizers are rarely as effective as they claim. However, an alcohol mouthwash is incredibly efficient at killing bacteria after you brush. Give it a quick rinse under the tap, let the head sit in a little mouthwash for a few minutes, and then air dry.


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 Bristles May Wear Down

Weakened, frayed bristles won’t clean as well as brand-new ones. They become weak, ragged, and they no longer have the pressure needed to scrub your enamel.

If you’re a heavy brusher you may notice those bristles fraying after just a few weeks, in which case you should either stop applying so much pressure or look to change your toothbrush head every time you notice extensive damage.

 The Bristles May Damage Your Gums

During manufacture, toothbrush bristles are set into jagged edges before being rounded down, thus preventing damage and ensuring they clean but don’t cut. As you brush, these rounded edges wear down and expose the sharp bristles underneath, exposing your gums to harm.

If you repeatedly brush with even a partially damaged toothbrush head, you may cause serious damage to your gums, including bleeding and lacerations. Over time, they will weaken and become more exposed to harm and disease.

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How Often Should You Change Your Brush Head?

The American Dental Association recommends that you change your brush head every 3 to 4 months, or sooner if the bristles are damaged. This advice is based on the recommended use of twice a day and 2 minutes a time, which means a single brush head has around 6 to 8 hours of continuous use.

It’s feasible that your toothbrush will last longer and need changing less often, but only if you’re not using it as much as you should and are maintaining it properly when it’s not in use.

Most toothbrushes come with detachable heads that you can remove and change at will, paying just a few bucks for a handful of replacement heads. The ones that don’t have this option typically cost just a few bucks and can be discarded and replaced.

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Proper Toothbrush Maintenance

In addition to changing your toothbrush head every few months, you should also:

1. Rinse After Use: Coldwater is fine, after which the bristles can be air-dried. This helps to remove debris and toothpaste, which prevents the bristles from hardening and reduces bacteria build-up.

2. Don’t Cover: Many toothbrushes come with little plastic caps, but these do more harm than good, creating a damp, humid environment in which bacteria can thrive.

3. Don’t Store in the Bathroom: Every time you flush the toilet, fecal particles enter the air and settle on surfaces. If you have your toothbrush in the bathroom, those particles could be settling on your brush head.

4. Separate: Don’t share your brush with anyone and keep it away from other brushes to avoid cross-contamination.