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Your Toothbrush

November 12th, 2013

Of all the things we can do to maintain our health, tooth brushing is perhaps the easiest to perform.   The new public education campaign of 2minutes twice a day stresses the importance of proper brushing.  (For more information about the Kids’ Healthy Mouths campaign go to www.2min2x.org).  But which brush to pick and how to take care of it and when to replace it?
Your toothbrush should be comfortable to use.  A wider, easier to hold handle is generally best and the brush head should be small enough to reach all the tight spaces in the mouth.  The shape of the head is a personal preference, but all bristles should be of soft polished nylon.  Younger children need a small brush with a thick handle that they can grasp easily and an appropriate design helps keep them interested in brushing.
When is it time to change your brush?  Generally every 3-4 months.  Brushes with frayed, worn bristles don’t clean well and can scuff the gums.  This is true of both manual and electric brush heads.  You may want to change brushes sooner if you are very sick.  Your brush can harbor bacteria and germs and some suggest that you switch as soon as the illness appears and again as soon as you get well.  This might be overkill for most, but necessary for those with a compromised immune system.
What about cleaning your brush?  Rinse it well after brushing, and remember to use just a small amount of toothpaste.  We tell kids to dispense paste the size of a pea.  After rinsing, store the brush upright and allow it to air dry.  Bacteria grow better in wet conditions so avoid using cases or covers.  You might want to dip the brush in antiseptic mouthwash after use as well.
Where should you keep your brush?  Anyplace clean and away from contaminants is fine.  Remember that the toilet can throw bacteria into the air when flushed so keep your brush away from there.  Make sure young kids and family pets can’t get to the area as well.
What about power brushes?  They often do a better job since they move more quickly than our hands can.  Additionally, timers are often built in so that users will brush for the entire suggested 2 minutes.  These may be ideal for people with braces, extensive bridgework, or those with physical problems that give them difficulty handling manual brushing.

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