The short answer is: more often. The American Dental Association recommends that you change your toothbrush 4 times a year (every three months), but most Americans only change their toothbrush once or twice a year. You should also change your toothbrush after suffering a bacterial illness.
Why You Need to Change Your Toothbrush
There are two main reasons why you should change your toothbrush. The first reason is that it becomes less effective. Bristles are designed so that they can effectively clean your teeth by properly rubbing up against your teeth and flexing to reach nooks and crannies around the gumline. As your toothbrush ages, its bristles lose effectiveness in these tasks, so you get less effective cleaning. This can increase your risk of gum disease and cavities.
Another problem is that bacteria begins to build up on your toothbrush. Eventually, you will be reintroducing some amount of bacteria to your mouth every time you brush. It’s still a net benefit, but it diminishes.
Care, Cleaning, and Special Circumstances
In order to make sure your toothbrush lasts its full lifetime effectively, use the following care practices.
Always brush gently. Brushing too hard not only irritates your gums (and can lead to receding gums), it can degrade your brush quicker.
Rinse your brush thoroughly after use and let it air-dry upright.
Be careful about using sterilizing methods on your brush. Some people recommend microwaving your brush, but this can damage the plastic and bristles. Chemical sterilizers should be ADA approved for the purpose.
When traveling, cover your brush with a cover that allows air flow to dry it, and only use the cover when you’re actually traveling. Leave your brush uncovered at the hotel so it can get as dry as possible.
Dispose of a brush after you have a bacterial infection. Otherwise, you could reinfect yourself.
For more advice on oral care and a professional cleaning, please contact Ascent Dental in the Cherry Creek area of Denver.