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How Old Is Too Old When It Comes to Your Toothbrush

By Sara Butler

Your Mouth and Your Old Toothbrush

Be honest for just a minute: How old is your pillow? How many miles do you really have on your walking shoes? How about that razor in the shower? How long have you been using the same toothbrush?

Look, I’m not trying to call you out but simply call you in, because there are a lot of habits that humans collectively share that can become dangerous to our health in the long-term. Your teeth are a very important picture of your overall health and wellness, so you probably want to hang on to them as long as you can, which is why it’s important to brush and floss each day and change your toothbrush regularly.

I get it, sometimes your toothbrush looks like it’s in pretty good shape. Or you have an expensive electric toothbrush with expensive replacement heads -- do they really need to be switched out as often or is it just a racket?

Here’s what you need to know about changing up your toothbrush and why it’s so important that you do it on the regular.

The Importance of Your Teeth

If your eyes are the window to your soul, then your teeth are the window to your overall health. Losing teeth is the number one reason people take care of their pearly whites, but it’s not the only reason to care for your teeth. The health of your teeth impacts your overall health and can even have an impact on your lifespan.

Some of the most important reasons to care for your teeth include:

  • Higher quality of life - Losing teeth can impact your bite and create problems with speaking or eating. Plus, it can impact your self-esteem if you are missing teeth.
  • Higher life expectancy - Researchers have found that those with their natural teeth by the time they reach age 74 have a much higher chance to live to 100 than those who don’t.
  • Reduction of health problems - Oral health problems can quickly cascade into overall health problems such as heart disease, oral cancer, or even osteoporosis.

The Truth: New Toothbrushes Are Better

Even if your toothbrush doesn’t look all that worn, the fact of the matter is that a new toothbrush is simply going to perform better than your old one. Bristles that are splayed or worn are simply less effective at removing plaque and preventing gum disease than newer ones.

To put it plainly: An old toothbrush can’t clean your teeth as well as a new one -- and that counts for both manual and electric toothbrushes.

What Happens When You Use an Old Toothbrush?

If you continue to use a toothbrush that has seen better days, then several things can happen. Primarily, the health of your teeth and gums will suffer since plaque cannot be removed fully when you brush. What is more disturbing is the number of bacteria that can thrive on an old toothbrush.

The older your toothbrush, the more bacteria and germs it serves as a host. Studies have found that toothbrushes that are three months old or older are contaminated with all kinds of bacteria, even fecal matter. I know you care about being a good host or hostess, but this isn’t the way to do it.

So, How Old Is Too Old?

Here’s the tea: Much like your mother-in-law likes to say on her birthday, age is just a number. In general, you should replace a toothbrush every three to four months, but the condition does play a factor. How often you use the toothbrush, the technique you use to brush, and the force you use all come into play. Visibly worn toothbrushes are simply less effective than newer, less worn ones.

The verdict? Replace your toothbrushes regularly and if they start to look shabby before you hit that three-month mark, then go ahead and replace them anyway.

You may be able to stretch the lifespan of your toothbrush, but why would you want to? If you can’t remember the last time you got a new toothbrush, then it’s time. Don’t push your luck when it comes to dental hygiene and the impact it can have on your overall health.

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