Looking After Your Toothbrush

Looking After Your Toothbrush

How we look after this everyday piece of personal care equipment could make a real difference to the health of our teeth and gums.

The humble toothbrush; a fairly ‘boring’ piece of equipment that we (hopefully) use twice a day to clean our teeth. Even after the initial appeal of electric toothbrushes, we doubt that many of our Bedford patients give them a second thought very often, or even at all.

Despite this, the humble toothbrush is the patient’s main weapon in the fight against tooth decay and gum disease. Even those of us who avoid sugar as far as possible will still be at risk if we don’t clean our teeth and gums properly.

We have discussed your options about whether to buy a manual or electric toothbrush in a previous blog. Whichever you choose though, it is important that you look after it well to ensure the best cleaning experience possible.

Keep it clean

What do you do once you have brushed your teeth? The chances are that most patients of The Dental Centre Bedford will simply rinse the head of the brush, give it a shake and put it back where it came from. This is unlikely to kill bacteria that has collected on the bristles and whilst some may die naturally when exposed to an external environment, this may not be the case with them all. We would recommend that you clean the brush head by immersing it in boiling water for a few minutes or soaking it in antibacterial mouthwash periodically. This is especially important if you have had a cold or flu virus. In that situation, you may prefer to throw it away and replace it instead.


Relating to the above, it is worth considering where you actually store your toothbrush. Especially if it is not kept in a holder that protects the bristles, it should be stored as far away from your toilet as possible. Bacteria and tiny pieces of fecal matter can become airborne when you flush your toilet, so storing your brush as far away as possible from your toilet as possible makes very good sense.

Even if it is stored a good distance from your toilet, try to store it upright and exposed to fresh air if possible. Bacteria have a tendency to breed faster in warm environments (the same way that bacteria breed faster in a warm, dry mouth and increase the likelihood of gum disease) and denying them this will help to minimise the number of bacteria living on the bristles of your brush.

Replace regularly

If we use a toothbrush for a long time, it starts to become more comfortable, with the softer bristles feeling kinder to our teeth and gums. Unfortunately, at this stage, it almost certainly means that it is also less effective. New bristles are firmer and are much more effective at both removing food particles and bacteria from the teeth and gum line. Removing surface staining from your teeth is also done more effectively with a new toothbrush, or head of an electric one. So how often should you replace your toothbrush/brush head? We would say approximately every three months, or before if the bristles are bent or showing other signs of wear.


We know that some of our patients are concerned about the environment and wonder if their toothbrushes can be recycled when no longer in use. Some brushes are now designed to be fully recyclable, but for standard brushes you will need to ask your local council. If you can’t actually recycle them though, here are a few suggestions as to how you can extend their lifespan.

  1. Use them as a cleaning tool (not for your teeth!) Toothbrushes are excellent for cleaning in small gaps, such as between tiles in your bathroom or kitchen
  2. Painting – If you enjoy painting, whether landscapes or abstracts, the toothbrush offers an alternative to a brush for producing different effects
  3. Use it to apply hair dye or to brush your eyebrows
  4. Clean between your computer keyboard to remove those biscuit crumbs that you just know are in there
  5. Using a toothbrush and a little shaving cream, you can even remove crayon marks from the wall of your child’s bedroom

Cleaning your teeth regularly is an important part of your everyday oral health care and should be done in the most effective way possible. It is not the only factor though, and both diet and ongoing oral care are equally important. You should certainly see one of our Bedford dental team every six months or so for a regular check up. This enables us to monitor your oral health, offer advice on how you can improve it, and, where necessary offer restoration of any teeth that have suffered from damage or decay.

If you need any help and advice in choosing the right toothbrush for your needs, our dentists are very happy to offer their own advice. Whatever brush you choose though, do make sure to look after it correctly!

Dental appointments can be made at The Dental Centre Bedford by calling us on 01234 819868.