Here’s What Happens to Your Mouth When You Don’t Change Your Toothbrush

Photo: Getty Images/bernardbodo
Serious question: When's the last time you got a new toothbrush? If you're not quite sure how often you should change your toothbrush, you're not alone: Past data shows 42 percent of people don't change their toothbrush as often as they're supposed to. It might not seem like a huge deal—it looks fine, so it must be fine!—but experts say it could set you up for some unpleasant problems with your mouth.

According to Inna Chern, DDS, a New York City-based dentist, your toothbrush should be changed every 3 to 4 months in order to avoid bristle breakdown, enamel damage, and bacterial overgrowth. One of the most common issues that can result from using an old toothbrush is some seriously bad breath.

"When you don't change your brush in the recommended amount of time, the bristles can become frayed. Frayed bristles are less effective in removing plaque and food debris around the teeth," Dr. Chern says. "Less effective plaque removal can lead to excess bacteria in the mouth, which causes bad breath."

Another issue that can occur when you don't brush your teeth often enough is even more serious. "A frayed toothbrush also harbors more bacteria, which can get redeposited in the mouth causing reinfection and increased gingivitis," she says. "I also recommend changing your brush after a recent illness—like a cold, flu, or bacterial infection—to avoid reinfection and infecting a neighboring toothbrush owner."

Luckily, there are plenty of easy ways to make sure you change your toothbrush regularly. "One suggestion is to purchase multiple toothbrushes at a time," says orthodontist Ana Castilla, DDS, like these biodegradable bamboo options from Amazon. "That way, when it’s time to change your toothbrush, you already have a stash of them at home. You can also consider a toothbrush subscription company such as Quip, which sends you a new toothbrush head (and batteries!) every three months for your electric toothbrush."

Swapping toothbrushes is hands-down the easiest thing you can do for your oral hygiene. Just set a calendar reminder to make sure stinky breath doesn't remind you first.

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