various electric toothbrushes on pink and red backgroundA toothbrush is a simple but effective tool for cleaning teeth. If you take proper care of your toothbrush, it will take care of you. 

At Divine Smiles, we want to help our Boston patients take proper care of their oral health with both home hygiene and professional cleanings.  Here’s how to properly care for your toothbrush. 

Selecting a Toothbrush

When you are considering your toothbrush options, both manual and powered toothbrushes work well when used properly. 

However, you should choose a powered toothbrush if you have manual dexterity challenges or if you develop significant tartar between professional cleanings. Often, a powered toothbrush can offer a different cleaning technique, which can lead to cleaner teeth, especially along the gum line. 

For a manual toothbrush, having angled bristles or multilevel bristles might improve cleaning compared to flat bristles. Soft bristles are preferable. Plaque is a very soft biofilm, so it’s easy to remove. A more serious concern is that brushing with bristles that are too stiff will injure your gums, leading to receding gums. Overaggressive toothbrushing is one of the leading causes of receding gums, second only to gum disease

Cleaning and Storing Your Toothbrush

Rinse your toothbrush after brushing. Be sure to remove all toothpaste, biofilm, and food residue. Make sure the bristles separate and move freely–you don’t want them held together by any type of residue. Store your toothbrush upright and allow it to air dry. Make sure it doesn’t contact other toothbrushes. 

The simpler your toothbrush design, the fewer bacteria it will retain after brushing. Your toothbrush should fully dry between uses. This minimizes the number of bacteria that survive on the brush. If you brush your teeth too frequently to allow adequate air drying of a single toothbrush, either rotate multiple brushes or consider sanitizing your toothbrush. 

To sanitize your toothbrush, consider soaking in either a 3% peroxide solution or in Listerine or equivalent solution for 20 minutes. Note that not all mouthwashes have equivalent germicidal properties, and using the wrong style might result in more contamination. You can also get a toothbrush sanitizer that uses ultraviolet light. These are effective if you clean your toothbrush thoroughly before placing it under the light. 

Do not try to clean or sterilize your toothbrush using:

  • The dishwasher
  • The microwave
  • Boiling water

The heat from these techniques can damage your toothbrush. 

Even if you sanitize your toothbrush, you should not share it with others. 

How Often to Replace Your Toothbrush

In general, you should replace your toothbrush at least once every four months for a manual toothbrush and perhaps half as long for the heads of a powered toothbrush. Many toothbrushes utilize colored bristles to indicate wear. When you buy a toothbrush with this type of indicator, understand what it means and follow its recommendations for toothbrush replacement. 

In addition, you should replace  your toothbrush if you notice:

  • Fraying bristles
  • Curving bristles
  • Matted bristles
  • Loose or lost bristles
  • Your teeth aren’t as clean as with a new toothbrush

A worn or damaged toothbrush will not clean your teeth as effectively. Once you notice that the bristles aren’t doing their job, it’s time to replace your toothbrush. In addition, bristles that are broken or cling together are more likely to become contaminated. 

Should You Replace Your Toothbrush After Being Sick?

There is a lot of conflicting information on this topic, so it’s important to consider why you might want to replace your toothbrush in this situation. 

If you have a cold or flu, these are caused by viruses. Once your body develops immunity to this virus, you aren’t likely to be infected with it again. So it’s not generally necessary to replace your toothbrush after a cold or flu, as these viruses are only likely to infect others–and you shouldn’t be sharing your toothbrush, anyway. 

However, if you have a bacterial infection, such as strep throat, it’s a good idea to replace your toothbrush. Bacteria living on your toothbrush can re-infect you. If you are taking a course of antibiotics, replace your toothbrush after a few days of taking the antibiotics. For additional protection, consider sanitizing your new toothbrush for a few days, too. 

Support for Good Oral Hygiene in Boston

If you are looking for a Boston dentist who can help you maintain good oral health, please contact Divine Smiles. Boston dentist Dr. Ryan Clancy knows that good oral health is not only the foundation of a beautiful smile but it’s also the foundation of good overall health. He can help you with preventive dentistry as well as restorative dentistry and cosmetic dentistry. 

Please call (781) 396-8558 or use our online form today to schedule an appointment at Divine Smiles, serving the Boston area from Woburn, MA, in Horn Pond Plaza, across from Whole Foods.