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You’ve seen the warning signs: frayed, frizzed, and spread out bristles, but do you know when it’s really time to change your toothbrush? Taking care of your oral health is more than just brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash on a regular (daily) basis. It also means using the right tools to maintain a healthy, beautiful smile. Dentists recommend replacing your toothbrush every 3 months; this is generally when the wear and tear signs of brushing every day begin to show. Some toothbrushes are equipped with signs to alert you when it is time to change those bristles. Usually, the bristles will fade, or in electric toothbrushes a light will come on to give you the head’s up. Pay attention to when the bristles become flat and/or frayed as this is a sign that your toothbrush is no longer able to clean your teeth as thoroughly.

Did you know toothbrushes also harbor bacteria and viruses? It’s true; those wonderful bristles that scrub bacteria from your pearly whites actually trap that bacteria, which can then spread and grow with your daily routine. For this reason, doctors recommend trashing your toothbrush after any sickness. This is especially important during cold and flu season as the flu virus can be captured by your toothbrush and passed on to you again. Don’t become a victim of toothbrush viruses; trash your toothbrush after being ill.

Are you feeling a slight twinge after drinking cold drinks? This could be caused by a cracked tooth or small cavity. While a dentist visit should be scheduled to diagnose the true cause of the problem, there are some steps that can be taken at home to ease or avoid compounding the issue. According to Prevention.com, the best way to avoid sensitivity to cold and inhibit the growth of cavities is to brush twice a day and floss at least once per day. The website also recommends rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash daily; however, the suggestion is to avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol as this can irritate gums.

Do you have sensitive teeth or painful gums? Sometimes this is a sign that periodontal disease is present within your gums. This bacteria can erode away gum tissue, exposing tooth roots and causing pain. Once again, scheduling an appointment to see your dentist and having professional deep cleanings is the best way to alleviate the disease-causing bacteria. At home, you can prevent periodontal disease by flossing “religiously.” Flossing covers the 35% of your teeth that brushing cannot reach or clean by removing bacteria and food particles wedged between your teeth and below the gum line. If you notice some bleeding when you first start flossing, don’t be alarmed. Talk to your dentist if the bleeding does not stop after continual, routine flossing as this may be a sign of an underlying problem.

Have you been experiencing dry mouth? Dry mouth is caused by a number of things, including some medications or sleep apnea. Saliva, which is lacking when dry mouth conditions exist, is important in re-mineralizing your enamel, neutralizing acids, and eliminating dry mouth. Be sure to tell your dentist if your lips and tongue have felt exceptionally dry, as this may indicate the beginning of chronic dry mouth. To help prevent dry mouth, Prevention.com recommends chewing sugarless gum or hard candy with xylitol to stimulate saliva flow. Daily cleaning of the tongue is also beneficial in helping to freshen breath and increase saliva production. If you have any other questions about dry mouth symptoms, talking to your dentist is the best way to get answers.