How often should you change your toothbrush?

Written by

Tim Greenhalgh

Posted on

October 21, 2020

Making sure your teeth are in good condition is one of the easiest ways to maintain general good health – and that means taking care to change your toothbrush regularly.

It’s a good idea to make a note in your online or paper diary when you buy a new toothbrush so you have a clear record of when you might want to order a replacement. But it’s not only how many weeks you use your toothbrush, it’s also the quality and general condition of the bristles.

You should be sure not to be scrubbing around your teeth and gums with a toothbrush that looks sadly like a squashed hedgehog. And by regular replacement, you can help to prevent your teeth from becoming a problem.

Tooth decay is one of the most common health issues in the UK. Over half of adults in the UK have one or more decayed or damaged teeth and around 50% of children aged 8 to 15 years have some tooth decay in their teeth.

What’s the best toothbrush?

We all have different needs in our daily dental hygiene routines and that’s reflected in the astonishing range of models on the shop shelves. We can choose an eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush, a standard plastic or an electric version, depending on what suits us best.

For many of us, the traditional toothbrushes is the weapon of choice in the battle against tooth decay. It’s simple, trusted and ready for use anytime, anywhere – no need to think about charging or replacing batteries, and it gives us complete control over how much pressure we exert on our teeth, as well as the angles we use to massage and clean the gums. It’s also a lot less noisy than an electric model!

Actually, for most people there is little difference whether you use an electric or manual toothbrush in terms of dental health – more important is how you brush, making sure you use a fluoride toothpaste –  and to spit, rather than rinse after brushing. This way, the fluoride works for longer to better protect your teeth.

Of course, for some elderly people with disabilities such as Parkinson’s, carpal tunnel syndrome, or arthritis, electric toothbrushes are a benefit, and they can also be a boon to those with braces, fixed bridges or implants.

Soft bristle choice

While some toothbrushes are made with natural boar’s hair bristles dental practitioners suggest that these can harbour bacteria and therefore don’t recommend them. At the moment, then, plastic bristles are here to stay and they are a very effective cleaning tool. Stiffness of toothbrush bristles ranges from very soft to hard and the British Dental Association recommends soft to medium bristles.

For people with sensitive teeth, as well as young children the soft version seems to work well, helping to remove plaque, bacteria, and food particles while avoiding gum and tooth enamel damage, that the harder versions can cause over many years of use.

Dentists advise that we should brush our teeth at least twice daily for 2 minutes a time, dividing the mouth into four quadrants with 30 seconds on the top left, bottom left and so on. That’s a lot of brushing and so your toothbrush is going to wear out quickly.

Most dental professionals recommend that you swap out the worn toothbrush every 3 to 4 months, although each person’s needs will be different. You might need to change more often, depending on the way you brush and on the state of your general health.

Bamboo benefits

In terms of what’s good for the planet, family and friends, minimising the amount of plastic being dumped into landfill and the oceans can only be a great benefit. So a bamboo toothbrush is a great choice.

It’s shocking to know that we discard roughly 3.5 billion toothbrushes worldwide and because nearly all are currently made of plastic, that’s not good news for our ocean life and the planet. So buying a bamboo toothbrush, like those from our Sustainable Living Shop makes a big difference, with over 95% less plastic than a standard toothbrush.

And if you’re thinking, “How often should I change my bamboo toothbrush?” then it’s pretty much the same as the traditional models, that is, every 12 to 16 weeks. When it’s ready for replacement, you can dispose of your bamboo toothbrush by putting the handle in the green garden waste or maybe use it as a natural plant marker. Why not ask your kids what they would want to do with their bamboo toothbrushes?

You should also be able to extract the BPA-free nylon bristles for recycling at the local centre (check guidelines). The makers chose this vegan option and while it does not fully biodegrade, it’s the more effective cleaning solution.

Bamboo is a great eco material. It’s a “cut-and-come-again” crop that reshoots after harvesting year after year and grows really quickly, using a fraction of the land and water needed for other materials like timber.

But whether you choose an eco-friendly bamboo type, a standard plastic model or an electric version, the professional advice is to change your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months, or sooner if the bristles get very worn – and there are other times when it would be wise to replace them. It’s a good idea to replace the family toothbrushes if there has been a viral or bacterial infection in the household as the bristles can harbour microbes and viruses.

Toothbrushing tips

  • Rinse the toothbrush thoroughly after each use to remove toothpaste or saliva
  • Don’t share your toothbrush
  • If your toothbrush is stored in a cup or container with other toothbrushes, try not to let the heads touch each other
  • No need for special containers – these can actually harbour germs
  • Don’t leave the tap running – you could waste 24 litres a day!

 

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