Most of us manage to brush our teeth at least twice a day, and hopefully most are flossing once a day, but one thing that is often overlooked is the need to replace toothbrushes at regular intervals. If your toothbrush is looking a little splayed and worn, then it is definitely time to bin it and invest in a new one.
The experts recommend replacing brushes every three or four months, but some people may need to change theirs more frequently. If yours looks worn before this time then don’t hesitate to get a new one. You should be especially vigilant about replacing toothbrushes if you have any kind of existing medical conditions that affect your immune system, and which make it more difficult to fight off infections, such as diabetes.
This is because a damp toothbrush is the ideal home for bacteria, and studies have shown there could be as many as 100 million bacteria congregating in your toothbrush, many of which can cause skin infections and diarrhoea. Some of these will have come directly from your mouth, as millions are naturally present, and while most are benign, it is best to try to keep the numbers on your brush to a minimum.
Keeping Your Toothbrush More Hygienic
A lot of it is simply down to common-sense. Your brush needs to be rinsed thoroughly after each use to ensure all loose bits of food are washed off. Afterwards giving it a good shake will help to remove a lot of the excess water so it dries more quickly. Ideally it should be placed upright to dry as this allows the air to circulate freely around it. The quicker it dries the fewer bacteria will be able to grow on the brush. Toothbrush covers are not a good idea unless you are travelling and they are unavoidable.
It goes without saying that you should not share your brush with anyone else, as you’ll just be getting their germs, and a toothbrush that is used twice as frequently is less likely to have adequate time to dry out between uses. There is another way bacteria can be transferred which is often ignored but is pretty revolting, and that is from your toilet. If you store your toothbrush near your loo, and leave the seat up when you flush then you are more at risk as the flushing action forces a plume of bacteria into the air.
Other Methods of Sanitising Toothbrushes
It is possible to buy toothbrush sanitising products that are designed to kill off bacteria. These are probably effective but it isn’t proven that using them will prevent you from becoming sick. Some people advocate putting their toothbrush in the dishwasher to sterilise it, or they’ll pop it into the microwave. These methods may kill the bacteria but they’ll probably damage the brush at the same time, and will make it less effective at cleaning your teeth.
As long as you take care to store your brush properly, don’t share it with anyone else, and change it regularly then you should be okay. It can be tricky remembering exactly when it’s time to change your brush, so those toothbrushes with built in indicators can be pretty useful. The bristles on these brushes usually lose their colour as they wear down.