How Often Should I Replace My Toothbrush?


Can you remember the last time you threw out your old toothbrush? You may have put little thought into swapping out your worn toothbrush with a fresh one, but it’s important to occasionally replace it. Keeping a box of new brushes handy is one way to prevent plaque buildup.

You know your toothbrush’s life span is limited, but you also need to know how long they typically last. If you’re wondering when to change your toothbrush so you can make sure your oral hygiene routine works, check out the guidelines below!

How Often Should You Replace Your Toothbrush?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should replace your toothbrush after using it for around three to four months. If your bristles look worn out, it’s a good time to buy a new one.

Worn bristles are less stiff than they used to be and may fail to pick up food particles or even fall out. If the bristles can’t clean food and plaque from the grooves of your teeth, your toothbrush isn’t working right and it’s time for a swap. This timeframe works best for manual toothbrushes.

When Should You Replace the Head of an Electric Toothbrush?

If you use an electric toothbrush, you know its automatic nature makes it unique. The fast vibrations your toothbrush uses to scrub your teeth can naturally cause the bristles to break down a little faster than the bristles on a manual toothbrush, so it’ll need to be replaced at least every three months or sooner. Make sure you rinse and dry the electric toothbrush after using it to keep it clean.

Your toothbrush may have come with a set of instructions, so you can see when the manufacturer recommends replacing the head. In general, replace your toothbrush’s head when it starts to look worn out or mashed. You may also notice that your toothbrush is slipping against your teeth instead of rubbing away food particles. If that’s the case, it’s time for a new brush head.

Why Should You Change Your Toothbrush?

The goal of brushing your teeth is to remove plaque and prevent tooth decay. Brushing away food that gets stuck in your teeth stops bacteria from multiplying. Your toothbrush’s age is a good way to determine how effectively it does its job.

The bristles of a toothbrush gradually weaken and become less hygienic. This is why occasionally changing yours is so important for your oral hygiene. New toothbrushes have stiffer bristles, even if you have sensitive gums and buy a soft-bristle brush. The bristles of a new toothbrush are fully intact and close together.

If you keep using a toothbrush you have had for longer than its recommended use, the bristles will get mashed down and crooked, with more separation between them. After four months or longer of regular brushing, your toothbrush will be less capable of cleaning your teeth.

Other Reasons to Change Your Toothbrush

How often to change a toothbrush can depend on more than its use. Other than the usual wear, below are the most common reasons you should switch out your toothbrush:

1. You Were Sick

Some dentists recommend replacing your toothbrush after you’ve been sick. The germs from a recent illness can survive on the bristles, but many microbes can’t thrive without hopping to another host. Contact with your toothbrush can infect someone else after you have built an immunity.

If you have been sick with a contagious illness, avoid cross-contamination by changing your toothbrush. This may protect other members of your household more than yourself. But it’s still a good idea, especially if you brush your teeth in the same place as others or if you share a toothbrush holder.

2. You Have Young Children

Replacing your child’s toothbrush once every three months might be for the best. Children sometimes gnaw on their toothbrushes or mash down the bristles. Watch your child brush their teeth to make sure they’re holding the brush properly without biting down on the bristles, using toothpaste and rinsing without swallowing.

3. Someone Mistakenly Used Your Toothbrush

If someone else accidentally used your toothbrush, you should get another one. Even if the person has been healthy recently, you don’t want to use a toothbrush that’s been in someone else’s mouth or risk getting sick.

4. You Dropped Your Toothbrush on an Unclean Surface

Instead of gambling with the five-second rule, get a new toothbrush. If you drop your toothbrush on a dirty surface, it will immediately pick up all of the waiting bacteria from a single touch.

The good news is that a toothbrush can be cleaned. If this happens when your toothbrush is still new and you would rather keep it, make sure you sanitize the toothbrush well. Use a small amount of antibacterial soap and rinse with plenty of water.

How to Maintain Your Toothbrush

Maintaining your toothbrush is key to your oral hygiene. You have to place it directly inside your mouth multiple times each day, and the moist bristles can grow bacteria without a care routine. Follow these steps to help your toothbrush stay clean for its three-month life span:

  • Rinse your toothbrush with water after each use.
  • Let your toothbrush air dry upright in a cup or another container.
  • Avoid storing different people’s toothbrushes in the same container.

Try not to regularly store your damp toothbrush in an enclosed container. Only store your toothbrush in this type of container when you have to travel somewhere or go on vacation, or buy a new toothbrush for the trip. If you do use a toothbrush cover regularly, make sure it lets your toothbrush breathe — that means it’ll air-dry while still protected in its case.

What Is the Risk of Using a Toothbrush Beyond Its Life Span?

Each time you brush your teeth, the toothbrush’s nylon bristles are exposed to toothpaste and a lot of friction. The bristles start to flare and twist into a new shape, making them ineffective. The more you use it, the less useful your toothbrush becomes.

A study showed that when people kept using the same toothbrush after 70 days, they actually had more plaque buildup than the group who replaced their toothbrushes.

Make Your Next Appointment With Drew Family Dentistry

At Drew Family Dentistry, we treat you like family. Many patients want to know how often to replace a toothbrush or have related questions. We’re happy to answer those and more as we get to know you and the care you need.

Please contact us if you have any other questions about your oral hygiene or if you would like to schedule an appointment to see a dentist in Tempe, Arizona!