When it comes to many things in life, the tools you use make a big difference. And when we are talking about your oral health, that means your toothbrush! A toothbrush may seem like such a little thing, but lots of patients overlook this important tool.
What mistakes are you making when it comes to choosing and caring for your most important piece of oral hygiene equipment?
We’ve said it before, and we will say it again, for the vast majority of patients, a soft-bristled brush is the best choice. While a hard or medium bristled brush sounds like it would clean your teeth more thoroughly, it isn’t usually the better option. Teeth are tough, but a harder toothbrush and rough brushing technique can wear away tooth enamel. And once the enamel is gone, you can’t get it back. Using toothpaste with fluoride can help fortify and strengthen existing tooth enamel, but it will not replace lost enamel.
In addition, a harder bristled brush can irritate your gums. When you brush, you shouldn’t only brush the chewing surfaces of your teeth. You should also angle your toothbrush and brush the gumline. Unfortunately, many patients have sensitive gums or gingivitis that can cause the gums to bleed when too much force is applied during brushing. You do not want to neglect this area, so using a gentler toothbrush will allow you to brush around the gums with less discomfort.
You should replace your toothbrush or toothbrush head every 3 months or as soon as you notice frayed bristles.
Your mouth is a harbor for bacteria – that’s why you brush in the first place! But germs can also live on your toothbrush. As your toothbrush ages and gets used, the bristles become worn away. While newer smooth bristles can be rinsed clean more easily, brittle, worn bristles will hold onto bacteria and other germs more.
In addition, shiny new toothbrush bristles are smooth and easily glide over the surfaces in your mouth. When worn, they become more jagged and can become abrasive. This can cause damage to gums and teeth like we mentioned earlier.
Worn bristles not only cause damage to teeth and gums but they make your toothbrush less effective. As the tips of the bristles wear and become damaged, they break apart and spread out. When this occurs, they can’t get into the tiny crevices and spaces they need to in order to do a thorough cleaning job.
Just like germs, toothbrushes can get moldy (eww!). This is bad for your teeth and overall health. To avoid a gross, moldy toothbrush, thoroughly rinse it after each use and store it with the bristles up. Avoid high-moisture storage options like travel cases unless you are actually traveling. And when you get to your destination, unpack your toothbrush right away.
Another good practice is to separate each household member’s toothbrush. If you simply throw them all into a cup and the bristles are touching, it can spread illness among your family members. But like we said, toothbrush covers that hold in moisture are a bad idea. Instead, use a toothbrush holder that has separate slots for each brush and holds them upright, so they don’t come in contact with one another.
Lastly, make sure you schedule regular dental check-ups and while you’re here, ask us any toothbrush questions you have!