Regular brushing and flossing prevent cavities, gum problems, tooth loss, and dreaded bad breath. And you can’t overestimate the importance of good dental care for your overall health. In fact, gum disease is a risk factor for the development of several serious health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.

One minor detail can come in the way of your dental hygiene: An old toothbrush. Worn toothbrushes with frayed bristles lose their effectiveness and cleaning power, so it’s important to know when to replace yours.

RELATED: Gum Disease and Heart Problems: What’s the Link?

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How Often Should You Change Your Toothbrush?

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends replacing your toothbrush every three to four months or before the bristles become frayed.

You should also get a new toothbrush after you’ve been sick because brush bristles can harbor germs. Children’s toothbrushes often need replacing more frequently than adult brushes, because kids often brush their teeth more vigorously.

Tips on toothbrush care

The ADA and the Council on Scientific Affairs provide the following toothbrush care recommendations:

  • If possible, store your toothbrush in an upright position and allow it to air-dry until it’s used again.
  • If you’re storing more than one toothbrush in the same container, keep them separate to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Do not routinely cover your toothbrush or store it in a closed container. Moist environments are more conducive to the growth of bacteria.
  • Do not share toothbrushes.
  • Thoroughly rinse your toothbrush with tap water after use to remove toothpaste and debris.
  • Try dipping your brush in mouthwash or hot water for a few seconds to kill off germs.

Tip: Having trouble remembering when it’s time to get a new brush? Some toothbrushes have bristles that change color after a few months of use, which can help you stay on track.

Visit the website for UPMC Dental Services for more.

About UPMC

A $23 billion health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates 92,000 employees, 40 hospitals, 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a 4 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical insurer in western Pennsylvania. In the most recent fiscal year, UPMC contributed $1.4 billion in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region’s most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution, and paid more than $800 million in federal, state, and local taxes. Working in close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC shares its clinical, managerial, and technological skills worldwide through its innovation and commercialization arm, UPMC Enterprises, and through UPMC International. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside among the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. For more information, go to