We throw away food when it expires, and we change our oil once we've racked up enough miles. However, we often don't replace our toothbrush when it is past it's prime. Just like expired food, we should be prepared to throw out and replace a toothbrush once it has "gone bad". These tips will help you know the "expiration date" of your tooth brush.

Keep in mind that brushing your teeth is just one important part of ensuring proper long term health of your teeth. Make sure to schedule regular cleanings with your dentist every 6 months. If you live in Fargo, Moorhead, or West Fargo and are looking for a dentist, schedule an appointment with us today.

How Often Should a Toothbrush be Replaced?

When did you last replace your toothbrush? The American Dental Association (ADA), recommends changing your toothbrush every 3 months.

This timeline is for several reasons. First, we should replace our toothbrushes frequently because they become less effective over time from use. The bristles start to wear out and stop being as effective at removing plaque that causes decay and cavities. Secondly, as the head break down, each bristle becomes more porous, and bacteria can more easily cling to the surface. For this reason, it is even important that you replace your toothbrush if you've been sick with a cold or certain viral infections to reduce your risk of being reinfected by germs that stick to your toothbrush.

To reduce the risk of fungus or bacteria hitching a free ride into your mouth, make sure to rinse your toothbrush well after each use, and dry your toothbrush thoroughly with a clean paper towel after each rinse. Then store your toothbrush in the upright position away from other brushes. Perhaps counterintuitively, it is typically best to leave your brush uncovered, unless you're traveling and your toothbrush is likely to come in contact with other items.

In addition to the three month rule, keep an eye on the the toothbrush head; look for bristles that are frayed or bent. If your toothbrush head's bristles are worn before three months of use, this may be a sign that you're brushing your teeth too hard. Also, should you ever notice darkening of your bristles, discard your toothbrush immediately and replace it. Darkening bristles are a sign of mold.

Why Do I Need to Replace My Toothbrush? 

just like going too long without an oil change, failing to replace your toothbrush frequently comes with it's own set of problems.

One potential effect of old toothbrushes is an increased risk of getting sick. This is caused by extra bacteria and fungus that sticks to the worn-out bristles of an overused toothbrush. What's even worse is that old, damaged bristles are more likely to pick up and hold unwanted particles that may be floating around your bathroom, especially from the toilet. Gross, right?

Another potential issue caused by not replacing a toothbrush is the increased risk of damage to your gums. This occurs because old toothbrushes become less effective with use, and more plaque on your teeth means more opportunities for gum disease to occur.

In summary, an old toothbrush is more likely to lead to long term gum damage, more likely to make you sick, more likely to get moldy, and more likely to pick up bathroom particles from your toilet. Chances are, if you're reading this, it's probably worth adding a toothbrush to your shopping list right now.

Does Toothpaste Expire?  What Happens if I Use Expired Toothpaste? 

Yes, Just like a toothbrush, toothpaste eventually needs to be replaced. Toothpaste typically expires after about two years, and should have an expiration date printed in it. This is because the active ingredient in toothpaste, fluoride, can start to break down after a few years. As it breaks down, it begins to change color and flavor, and can become less effective as time passes. the further a toothpaste gets past it's expiration date, the more likely it is to separate, dry out, or even start to grow bacteria in rare cases.

While using toothpaste that is past it's expiration date typically isn't a safety risk, it simply may not be as effective at doing it's job.

To keep your toothpaste fresh as long as possible, store it at room temperature, always replace the cap after using, and store it in a cabinet.

What Kind of Toothbrush and Toothpaste Should I Buy? 

During your next cleaning, ask your dentist for a personalized recommendation for what toothbrush and toothpaste you should purchase, based on your individual needs. Your dentist understands your unique oral health history and may be able to suggest products that meet your individual needs. For instance, if you tend to brush too hard, they might suggest softer bristles, or an electric toothbrush that detects over-brushing.

In general, many dentists would recommend toothbrushes with soft bristles. This is because harder bristles can more easily lead to over brushing, which can actually remove the outer layer of your teeth's enamel, leading to decay.

When it comes to toothpaste, look for a tube that has been approved by the American Dental Association. You should see a badge marked "ADA".

Do your own research based on your needs, and don't hesitate to ask your dentist for a personalized recommendation.