The Time To Toss Toothbrushes

You may think nothing of using the same toothbrush for long periods of time.

But Mahnattan dentist Dr. Nancy Rosen tells The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen you should think plenty about it, because holding onto one too long could be very unhealthy.

People are not immune to the bacteria that can form on toothbrushes from numerous, common situations, Rosen notes. And those bacteria could pose serious health threats.

When is it time to throw out your toothbrush? Rosen offered words of caution:

WHEN THE TOOTHBRUSH BRISTLES ARE DAMAGED AND NO LONGER EFFECTIVE

The American Dental Association recommends changing toothbrushes or toothbrush heads every three months. You can tell when it is time to change your toothbrush when the bristles look like someone sat on them or like they were scrubbing the floor.

If you have the toothbrush for a very long time, the bristles might tinge and change color. If you don't change your toothbrush after three months, it may be unhealty because of plaque buildup: A toothbrush older than three months is not as effective at brushing and eliminating germs, so plaque can be left in your mouth. This can cause gum and bone disease (periodontal disease), and this may contribute to the development of heart disease, increase the risk of premature birth, and pose a serious threat to people whose health is already compromised due to diabetes, respiratory problems and other illnesses.

Newer toothbrushes clean much better than old ones. When the bristles are worn, they may become sharp. Not only will bristles not remove plaque efficiently, but they can cause abrasions or cuts in the gum tissue and wear away the enamel.

An easy way to remember to change your toothbrush every three months is to change it at the beginning of winter, spring, summer and fall.

AFTER YOU ARE SICK

Germs from a flu and cold can live on your toothbrush for up to 24 hours. You need to change the toothbrush so you don't re-infect yourself,

WHEN TOOTHBRUSH IS IN CLOSE PROXIMITY TO THE TOILET

Keep toothbrushes two to five feet from the toilet. And keep your toilet seat cover down. Toothbrushes have been found to be vulnerable to "airborne bacteria" such as the E-coli, which can be passed in tiny water droplets from a flushing toilet to a toothbrush in the same bathroom.

In smaller bathrooms, store your toothbrush in a medicine cabinet, or in a cap/storage container (with holes), and keep it as far away from the toilet as possible. It's important to remember if using a separate container/cap that it must have holes in it. Closed containers will make the brush stay moist, enaling bacteria to grow.

IF STORING IT IN A COMMUNAL CONTAINER WITH FAMILY MEMBERS OR OTHERS YOU LIVE WITH

Keeping toothbrushes in the same container easily spreads germs among family members. Don't store toothbrushes in the same container, unless there are special holes for individual brushes.

Don't share your toothbrush with anyone, not even someone one you kiss at night.