How often should you change out your toothbrush?
We all know how important it is to brush our teeth regularly. Some of even see the dental hygienist regularly, for professional dental cleanings and checkups. But did you know that there's more to proper tooth care than brushing and flossing?
Take the toothbrush. Do you regularly replace your family's toothbrushes? Experts recommend buying a new brush every three to four months, or whenever bristles become frayed. If you keep your toothbrush any longer, it probably won't be able to remove plaque effectively. It's also a good idea to replace a brush whenever you've been ill, especially if your illness is communicable. Recovering from the flu, a cold, strep throat, or a stomach virus? By all means, toss out your toothbrush and start out fresh as soon as you're well again. Otherwise, you risk reinfecting yourself.
How you store your toothbrush also makes a difference. Research has shown that storing your brush upright, in open air, is best. It keeps the bristles dry, which discourages the growth of bacteria and fungi. According to experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, it may also make sense to rinse your mouth with an antibacterial mouth rinse before brushing, to reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth. Toothbrushes are not packed or shipped under sterile conditions, so even straight out of the package the bristles are likely to have bacteria on them.
Studies have shown that most people's toothbrushes are contaminated with various kinds of bacteria. Some of this is inevitable, but rinsing thoroughly after use, and storing upright in open air, should keep bacteria at a minimum. It's also best to store them as far from nearby toilets as possible. Of course, you should never share your toothbrush with anyone else, and you should avoid handling the bristles, to prevent contamination.
Finally, it's extremely important to see your dentist regularly. Lack of proper care can lead to gum disease. Called periodontitis, this kind of ongoing infection at and below the gum line is potentially serious business. Having untreated periodontitis is not just about having ugly teeth or bad breath. It's a serious health hazard. Bacteria from infected gums can get into the bloodstream, where it could contribute to systemic, inflammatory diseases such as cardiovascular disease or even diabetes. Untreated gum disease can even cause pneumonia among people who get gum bacteria into their lungs. And get this: Research shows that men with gum disease are about 50% more likely to be diagnosed with kidney or pancreatic cancer. Gum disease has also been linked to a 30% greater risk of developing certain types of blood cancers. Now that's something to chew on.