Have you looked closely at your child’s toothbrush lately? If you’ve not put a lot of thought into replacing the toothbrushes in your home, you’re not alone. It’s just one of those things that’s easy to forget.
Parents are busy people, and kids are busy, too. While most parents quickly notice when their children need new shoes or clothing, parental responsibilities like replacing toothbrushes sometimes fall through the cracks.
How Long Should Toothbrushes Last?
Because most toothbrushes are plastic, they might look fine for a very long time, but the truth is that they’re not meant for a lifetime of use. Signs of wear or damage to the bristles can make them less effective at cleaning teeth.
Toothbrushes should ideally be replaced every three to four months, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). However, there are ways to know if your child needs a new toothbrush sooner than that.
1. Examine Those Bristles
First, check the bristles on your child’s toothbrush. If they look matted or frayed, it’s time for a new toothbrush. Also, the bristles should stand straight up and not droop.
When you’re examining the bristles, be sure to check the bottoms near the base of the toothbrush. If you see any debris that won’t dislodge easily under running water, the toothbrush needs replacing.
2. Has Your Child Been Sick?
Even on a good day, the average toothbrush can harbor millions of bacteria, and hundreds of different types including Staphylococcus Aureus, E. Coli, Streptococcus Mutans and Lactobacillus, according to researchers at the University of Manchester in the U.K. Here’s something that sounds even grosser: the University of Alabama discovered that many toothbrushes have fecal germs, too.
And that’s just a typical day. The fact is, the mouth is a germy place. If your child has been sick, it’s even worse.
Regardless of the condition of the toothbrush’s bristles, if your child has been ill, toss the old brush and get a new one. If they continue to use the same toothbrush once they are well again, they risk re-infecting themselves.
Sicknesses that warrant a new toothbrush:
- Cold or flu
- Throat or mouth infection
- Sore throat or strep diagnosis
- Mouth sores, such as fever blisters or canker sores
Also, if your child shares a bathroom with others, there’s a risk that germs on their toothbrush could pass to other family members. Bacteria can spread from one toothbrush to another, either via a shared toothbrush holder or even a tube of toothpaste.
3. When Did You Last Replace Your Child’s Toothbrush?
If you don’t remember the last time you brought home shiny new toothbrushes for the family, it’s probably time to replace your child’s toothbrush. Don’t feel bad – it happens to everyone! Toothbrush replacement isn’t something most people have on their calendars.
To help you remember when to replace your child’s toothbrush (and your own), set up a calendar alert using your calendar tool of choice. Another idea is to give your child the responsibility of putting the reminder on a wall calendar. Good habits begin early, and this encourages your child to invest in their own health.
How to Extend the Life of Your Child’s Toothbrush
Toothbrushes are affordable, but you may have objections to replacing them unnecessarily. As mentioned earlier, their handles might seem to last forever, and there are concerns about plastic waste filling landfills (and even beaches). If sustainability is an important issue in your family, there are ways to make toothbrushes last up to the four-month replacement window and ways to recycle toothbrushes after you’re done with them.
Assuming your child’s toothbrush is in good condition and they haven’t been sick, here are some things you can do to make those brushes last just a little longer.
- Teach your children to rinse their toothbrushes vigorously under running water after use to remove excess debris and toothpaste.
- If possible, store everyone’s toothbrush in a separate toothbrush holder to avoid unwanted germ sharing or accidental use of someone else’s brush.
- Store your child’s toothbrush upright in the open so that it dries more quickly.
Your Kids Will Thank You for Their Smile
Regular toothbrush replacements will help maintain one of the most beautiful things in every parent’s life: their children’s smiles. Because they clean your kiddo’s mouth at least twice a day, toothbrushes are easily one of the hardest working tools in your child’s wellness toolkit.
While you’re replacing your kid’s toothbrush, go ahead and buy yourself a new toothbrush while you’re at it. You deserve it.
Aaron Smith is an LA-based content strategies and consultant in support of STEM firms and medical practices. He covers industry developments and helps companies connect with clients. In his free time, Aaron enjoys swimming, swing dancing, and sci-fi novels.