There's a reason your dentist gives you a new toothbrush every time you go in for an appointment: Toothbrushes need to be changed often. In fact, you almost certainly need to get a new toothbrush more frequently than you see your dentist.

The general rule? Throw away your toothbrush after three to four months of use. This is because the bristles get frayed and will stop cleaning your teeth effectively, putting you at risk of cavities, periodontal disease, and other oral problems.

"I will often tell my patients to use their appointments as a reminder since it's easy to make the association [with a new toothbrush] after visiting the dentist," says Cheryl Goren Robins, a periodontist in Millburn, NJ and Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgical Sciences in the Department of Periodontology and Implant Dentistry at NYU College of Dentistry. "It's sort of like changing the smoke alarm batteries when the clocks change."

If you see your dentist every six months (or less frequently), you'll need to cue yourself that your toothbrush needs to be replaced. Here, some tips and reminders to help you keep up with this simple oral hygiene task:

  • One easy solution is to buy an indicator toothbrush, which has a strip of colored bristles that start to fade when it's time for a replacement brush.
  • If you brush very often and/or very aggressively, you might need to replace your brush more frequently.
  • Check often for discoloration and splayed bristles—signs that a new toothbrush should be in your immediate future.
  • If you use your toothbrush during a bout of the flu or inadvertently store it near a toilet that gets flushed with the lid open, it is often recommended you toss it. But, according to the American Dental Association, there is not enough evidence to assert that bacteria on toothbrushes contribute to adverse health effects. If you have a compromised immune system or are at risk of infection, it's a good idea to change your toothbrush after it gets contaminated.
  • Regularly rinse or soak your toothbrush in an antibacterial mouthwash to further decrease the likelihood of bacterial growth.

Cheryl Goren Robins, DDS, reviewed this article.



Cheryl Goren Robins, periodontist, Millburn, NJ

"Statement on Toothbrush Care: Cleaning, Storage and Replacement," American Dental Association, accessed July 11, 2013,