How Long Should You Keep a Toothbrush?

toothbrushMost people look for long-term relationships, both with a spouse and with a group of friends. But your dentist in Sacramento wants you to know that there’s one relationship that should never last longer than three months — your relationship with your toothbrush. We’re not saying that you should stop brushing, we’d never suggest that. But we do recommend replacing your toothbrush four times a year. However, there are times when you should consider replacing it sooner than that. 

Bacteria Buildup

We all know that our toothbrushes are responsible for removing plaque, bacteria, and lingering food particles from our teeth. But think about it: if you never replace your toothbrush, just how much bacteria buildup would be on those bristles? Too much. This is one reason why your dentist in Sacramento and the American Dental Association encourages patients to swap out their toothbrushes (or toothbrush head if you’re using an electronic one) every three to maybe four months. However, bacteria buildup isn’t the only reason why a new toothbrush is needed every so often. As the bristles begin to wear down over time, the toothbrush also becomes less effective at cleaning your teeth, putting you at risk of decay, cavities, and other oral health problems. In fact, there are times when you should replace your brush even earlier than 3-4 months.

What to Look For

How do you know it’s time to get a new toothbrush even if you’re technically not due for one yet? It’s easy, and there are some tell-tale signs that it’s time to trash your toothbrush. You should look for signs in the bristles such as:  

  • Fraying
  • Discoloration
  • Flattening

If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to break up with your toothbrush and upgrade to a new one. 

An Important Note

It’s worth noting that even if your toothbrush is in great condition and not showing signs of wear and tear, you should always replace your toothbrush after you’ve been sick to lower the risk of reintroducing the illness back into your system. 

Proper Care is Key

To get the most out of your toothbrush and to help make it last the full three or possibly four months, you need to take care of it properly. Follow these tips to get the most out of your short, three-month relationship with your toothbrush. 

  • Don’t Share. Our parents always taught us that it’s polite to share. But they forgot one exception to that rule — your toothbrush. You should never share your toothbrush with anyone, even a family member or child. Sharing your toothbrush is also a great way to swap bacteria. 
  • Always Rinse It. Every time after you brush, it’s crucial that you thoroughly rinse away any extra toothpaste from between your bristles. This also helps wash germs and bacteria down the sink. 
  • Keep It Upright. In between brushings, make sure to properly store your toothbrush with the bristles up. This allows anything lingering around to fall off the bristles as they dry. Speaking of drying, we also recommend keeping your toothbrush uncovered and away from other household toothbrushes.  

Replacing your toothbrush every three months or after a cold is the best way to make sure that it’s in the best condition possible to properly care for your oral health. Additionally, making sure to take care of your toothbrush can extend its life for the full three months. As always, pairing a great oral hygiene routine at home with visits to your dentist in Sacramento twice a year is the best combination to keep your smile healthy. 

What’s It Mean When Your Tongue is Black?

closeup of tongueWe all know that dentists are responsible for overseeing the health of our teeth. But the truth is, your dentist in Sacramento is actually responsible for much more than teeth alone. Your dental team is dedicated to protecting your overall health, and one area that’s of particular interest to your dentist is your tongue. Believe it or not, your tongue can say a lot about your overall health and can show early warning of signs of some serious health conditions. 

What We Look For 

At your bi-annual dental checkups, your dentist and hygienist will take a close look at your tongue. But what exactly are they looking for? First, your dental team will look for any changes in your tongue’s texture since your last appointment, paying particular attention to any bumps or lumps. Next, your dentist in Sacramento will look for any tongue discoloration. A healthy tongue will be pink and covered in teeny tiny bumps called papillae. An unhealthy tongue or one that may be showing signs of a bigger problem may have any of the following:  

1) Black and Hairy – Looking into the mirror and seeing a black, hairy tongue can certainly cause someone to panic. But, however scary and gross this may seem, chances are that a black, hairy tongue is nothing to fear and is usually temporary. It may also help to know that the hairy appearance isn’t actually hair. It’s often a buildup of dead skin cells on the papillae, which causes the normally tiny bumps to take on a long, stringy appearance. 

  • Causes: Poor oral hygiene, tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, dry mouth, changes in the number of bacteria or yeast in the mouth. 
  • Symptoms: Bad breath, change in taste or a metallic taste, hairy or furry appearance, black, yellow, brown, or green coloration. 

2) A Sore, Bumpy Tongue – Every tongue naturally has a bumpy texture, and not every bump is worrisome. However, when a new bump appears and lasts for more than two weeks, or is accompanied by pain or soreness, it may be time to see your dentist in Sacramento. A lump or bump that doesn’t go away may be an early warning sign of oral cancer, and it’s best to get it checked sooner rather than later.

  • Causes: While anyone can develop oral cancer, there are some things that increase the risk including tobacco use, alcohol, too much sun on the lips without protection, or HPV. 
  • Symptoms: Lumps, bumps, or painful sores that don’t go away, chronic bad breath, changes in voice, difficulty chewing or swallowing, numbness of the tongue. 

3) Ridges – Changes in tongue texture may initially be concerning, but ridges or a scalloped appearance on the edges of the tongue are typically harmless. 

  • Causes: Teeth grinding, pushing the tongue against teeth either during periods of stress or even during sleep, sleep apnea, smoking, nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin B-12, riboflavin, niacin, or iron. 
  • Symptoms: Ridges, ripples, indents, or scalloped edges on the sides of the tongue.  

4) White Spots – When your tongue appears to be coated in white spots, you may be experiencing oral thrush or leukoplakia. Oral thrush is an infection caused by Candida yeast while leukoplakia is a result of tobacco use or alcohol use. Sometimes, leukoplakia can develop into oral cancer. 

  • Causes: Poor oral hygiene, tobacco use, alcohol use, dehydration, dry mouth, mouth breathing. 
  • Symptoms: White patches or spots or a white coating on the tongue. The white spots or coating can show up either on the entire tongue or just in select places.  

We always recommend that you keep a close eye on your tongue’s health in between your visits, too. If you notice any changes in texture or color or develop sores, contact your dentist in Sacramento as soon as you can.