Archive for January, 2011


The following scenario appears time and again and it repeated itself today.  It prompted me to blog about it here:

A patient comes in for his 6 month check-up.  We detect heavy plaque (build up on the teeth) and gingivitis (swollen, inflamed gums).  I ask him how many times a day he is brushing to which he proclaims, “Two or three times a day!”  Eye-roll from the dental staff.  We think this guy brushes once a week!  Then we bore the patient with the brushing instructions that you’ve all heard a thousand times

Well, some time ago, I realized that maybe all these people aren’t exaggerating.  So I started to consider other possibilities.  Finally, I asked the proper question, “How often do you change your toothbrush?”  And I always heard the same answer, “I’m using the one you gave me the last time I was in for my cleaning!”  Wow!  6 months!  No wonder your mouth is in that condition!  In effect, you haven’t been brushing your teeth for months!

Next I started to ponder why patients thought it was ok to keep a toothbrush that long.   Well, its because they used to last that long…when they were much different…

Years ago, toothbrushes were manufactured with firm bristles for maximum scrubbing power.  But because people are keeping their teeth longer than ever before, we now see the long term effects of firm or even medium bristled brushes.   They can damage the teeth and gums by wearing them away.

So toothbrush manufactures now produce soft toothbrushes.  In fact, I don’t even know of a firm bristled toothbrush on the market and the medium bristles are becoming ever harder to find.  And that’s great because the soft bristled toothbrushes are much better for us.  The soft bristles will not damage our gums or teeth and they are much more comfortable to use.  HOWEVER; they do not last nearly as long.

So as dentists, I think we need to re-train the public about toothbrush renewal.  The softer bristles lose their performance after about 60 uses.  So if you are brushing your teeth twice a day, you should replace your tooth brush every 30 days or 4 weeks.  If you brush 3 times a day, you should change your brush every 20 days.   I would even go so far as to say that if the bristles are splayed, bent, or flared, you’ve waited too long.   You need to think of it like this: every time you use your brush, the performance is a little less.  And lower quality brushes have an even shorter lifespan.

But I remind my patients, “Every dollar yon spend on a toothbrush, is $100 you will save in the dentist office!”  So think of spending your money on toothbrushes as an investment in time, money, and comfort!

By the way, here are some tips to make your toothbrush last longer:

  • Don’t bite or chew the bristles as you brush
  • Wash out all of the toothpaste out of every use.  Don’t let any toothpaste dry in the bristles.
  • Buy higher quality toothbrushes.
  • Do not store the toothbrush with the bristles face down.
  • Use a Philips Sonicare brush.  With proper care, a Sonicare head can last 6 months

Add comment January 7, 2011