I am a Dentist in Kitchener, ON, and each week I like to explore a question that I commonly get at my Family Dental office. This week, I'd like to discuss how often to change your toothbrush and the disadvantages of keeping the same brush for too long.

Your toothbrush is a tool for removing plaque from your teeth. You can also use your toothbrush to lightly brush your tongue. This helps to turn over the surface of your tongue and deprives odour-causing bacteria of the dead cells they need to thrive. But can your toothbrush be a hazard to your health?

Let's talk about a couple of ways that your toothbrush can harm you as well as what you can do to maximize the benefits associated with using one.

Bacteria, Viruses and Your Toothbrush

Toothbrush bristles and bristle heads harbour bacteria and viruses. The point where each bristle inserts onto the toothbrush head provides another nook where bacteria can grow and viruses can hide. Translucent brush heads are healthier overall because light can pass through them and this disrupts the growth of pathogens to some degree.

When you're sick, you seed your toothbrush with pathogens causing your illness. If your brush comes into contact with a partner's toothbrush, you can transmit disease. Also, if you suffer from cold sores caused by viral herpes, virus particles can stay on your toothbrush to increase the frequency of future flare-ups.

To better clean your brush, you can use a natural castile soap or sterilize your brush using boiling water.

Damage to Your Teeth

Your toothbrush bristles are designed to disrupt plaque and remove it from around your teeth. The bristles are polished on a new toothbrush but they become rougher over time. If you use the same toothbrush for more than 2-3 months, you end up gouging tooth enamel and dentin in small amounts. Of course, these effects accumulate over time. In fact, the damage done by using a frayed brush can be significant in people who use a lateral scrubbing technique when brushing their teeth.

So, how often should you change your toothbrush?

Ideally, you should change your toothbrush every 2 months. This will prevent you from using a toothbrush that is home to large amounts of bacteria and virus particles. It will ensure that your toothbrush bristles are kind to your teeth while being effective at removing plaque and tartar.

I would also recommend changing your toothbrush after a bout with cold sores even if it is not 2 months old.

Thank you for reading today. I hope the article has provided some clarity about how often to change your toothbrush.

By Dr. Kyle Hornby, Dentist in Kitchener

Our Kitchener Dental Office is conveniently located in Downtown Kitchener. We are a short drive away for families in Waterloo, Breslau & St. Jacobs. Our central location means we truly offer family dentistry near you!

Many of the patients at our Kitchener Dental Office commonly ask us about fighting off stubborn tooth stains. Stain can tarnish a natural and beautiful smile. Luckily, dental cleanings can eliminate tenacious stains. But, there are also ways that you can tame stain accumulation by making a few adjustments in your daily routine.

The less often you need a professional dental cleaning for stain removal, the more money you save! Here's how to do it...

Control Intake of Foods that Cause Tooth Stains

What foods stain teeth? Well, foods with lots of pigment do this by sinking into plaque and calculus on your teeth. As calculus absorbs pigments from food, it takes on different colours. Wine, Tea, Coffee and smoking are just a few things that can discolour your teeth.

Your teeth can also change in colour because of dentin exposure. Dentin is the yellow layer of tooth structure under enamel. If the enamel thins prematurely, your teeth start to look more and more yellow. Now, technically, this is not the same as staining but I thought I'd mention it here because it is a form of discolouration.

Foods that are high in acid (like citrus fruits, red wine and soda pop) erode your enamel over time, revealing more and more yellow dentin. To some extent, a thinning of enamel occurs as we age but a regular intake of highly acidic foods can really speed up this process.

Water Your Teeth!

Water can help to minimize tooth stains and acid erosion. Two ways you can do this:

  1. Use water to dilute acidic juices.
  2. Drink water at meals (red meat is acidic) and in between sips of red wine or coffee.

Water dilutes the beverages that cause acid erosion and staining. When you drink it, swish it around first before swallowing to provide a rinse for your teeth. This will reduce the contact time between food and drink pigments and your teeth.

Consider an Electric Toothbrush

Electric toothbrushes are superior to manual brushes for reducing tooth stain. The key is, retain a gentle approach and let the brush do the work. Avoid scrubbing your teeth as this can be an instinctual response to not getting your teeth completely stain-free. With the use of an electric brush you'll remove more of the stain that builds up and slow down discolouration between dental cleanings!

(The Oral B electric toothbrushes with the rotating bristle heads work well for stain removal).

Limit Tartar Buildup, Limit Tooth Stains

Tartar is the calcified plaque that accumulates on your teeth between dental cleanings. It's composed of carbohydrate, biofilm containing oral proteins, and bacteria. It's irregular and porous so it readily absorbs pigment in foods and beverages. Tartar is like a hard sponge.

If you can brush for at least 3 minutes twice daily and floss twice daily, you'll remove more plaque from your teeth and their will be less of the main ingredient for tartar formation. Stain builds to a lesser degree on smooth tooth enamel compared to tartar. So keeping tartar off your teeth means keeping your teeth stain-free!

Keep Your Teeth Cavity-Free!

Every time you develop a cavity, your Kitchener Dentist treats it with a Dental Filling. The "margin" or area where the filling meets your natural tooth degrades slowly over time and will accumulate stain. This is because it is an irregular surface and far less smooth than your natural enamel. Patients that have many dental fillings in their front teeth, tend to have orange, brown and sometimes black stains along the edges of fillings. It can be very frustrating to patients and dental cleanings can only reduce stain in these areas by so much.

Avoiding the need for dental fillings altogether saves you money and will limit irregular surfaces where stain can build up.

By Dr. Kyle Hornby, Dentist in Kitchener

Our Kitchener Dental Office is conveniently located in Downtown Kitchener and we are a short drive away for families in Waterloo, Breslau & St. Jacobs. Our central location means we truly offer family dentistry near you!

This article is meant to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Accordingly, always seek the advice of your Dentist or other healthcare providers regarding a dental condition or treatment.

Tooth pain and sensitivity are the most common problems people tell us about at their regular check-up appointment. Persistent sensitivity is unpleasant and can be demoralizing to patients if it lasts long-term. Luckily, there are simple ways to determine the source of pain. And, even better still, many of the solutions for dental pain involve no treatment whatsoever.

So let's get into my 5 tips for identifying the problem and eliminating the discomfort!

1. Identify the cause.

The first thing I will always recommend is to visit your Kitchener-Waterloo Dentist to assess the source of your tooth pain. There are many types of dental pain and an even larger list of causes. Teasing apart all the details to nail down a solution can be challenging.

One really important thing to think about is whether the pain or sensitivity comes from a single tooth (or small area) versus if the symptoms are more general and spread out in the mouth. A second important thing to note is whether the pain is brought on by a stimulus (like cold or pressure) or if your symptoms are spontaneous and unprovoked). The final thing to think about is whether pain is dull (like the pain you feel with a bruise) or sharp (like a needling pain or electric shock).

Here are some common types of dental pain and what each type can tell you:

2. Use Desensitizing Products.

What are "desensitizing products"? Well, Sensodyne toothpaste is a desensitizing product. You can buy this at your local drugstore. Some patients enjoy relief using fluoride rinses and varnishes that you can find at drugstores as well. Best way to use these products is as per product directions. One wrinkle I'd employ? After you spit out the Sensodyne toothpaste or fluoride varnish, don't rinse. Leave a small reservoir in the mouth so it can continue to act for a longer period of time!

Also, ask your Family Dentist in Kitchener about medical grade desensitizers that they can apply easily for you. A Dentist can paint desensitizers like Gluma or G5 onto hypersensitive dentin to quickly thwart discomfort. These products block open tubes in your dentin so that pesky stimuli (think cold, acidic or sweet foods) do not activate the nerve.

3. Try a Night Guard.

Night Guards fit over either your upper or lower teeth (think athletic mouth guards) to cushion and protect them during nighttime tooth grinding. If you wear a night guard you'll a) stop wearing down your enamel and b) stop irritating sensitive dentin that my settle down in time. The Night Guard will also cushion your teeth so that they become less achey over time.

If grinding and clenching your teeth is the root of your sensitivity, a night guard will help big time!

4. Dial down the acid!

I love smoothies. Some people love orange juice. Some people like a glass of red wine every evening with dinner. All of these things can repeatedly expose your teeth to acid leading to erosion and structural loss. These acids can also re-activate dentin that has settled down causing a relapse of sensitivity.

You may find it helpful to cut back on these acidic foods or to dilute what you are consuming.

5. Elevate your Oral Hygiene.

For most of you, this will sound like the typical, low-hanging fruit of dental advice floating around out there. But, here's a twist: a clean mouth is less susceptible to pain. Inflammation causes pain. Untidy, inflamed gums are sore. They can ache on their own. Often times, gum pain can mimic tooth pain.

I've had a popcorn kernel under my gums for a few days before I was able to finally remove it. One of the things that amazed me was how tender my tooth became to normal chewing pressure. Gum irritation and inflammation can cause inflammation of the periodontal ligament (PDL) that surrounds your tooth root. If your gums are pumping out inflammatory substances and mediators it will make the PDL more tender and your tooth/teeth will hurt during chewing.

Luckily, brushing and flossing daily will eliminate inflammation. Let's say you don't like to floss. Like, ever. If you start to floss, you're looking at about 14 consecutive days of flossing to eliminate inflammation or Gingivitis. So there's a bit of an investment there but it's well worth it!

It may also be useful to consider a dental cleaning if it's been a while since your last visit to your Dentist in Kitchener.

Thank you for reading today's post!

Written by Dr. Kyle Hornby, Kitchener Dentist

If you would like to book an appointment for emergency dental care, please give us a call at (519) 576-8160 or request an appointment here.

Our Kitchener Dental Clinic is conveniently located in Downtown Kitchener and we are a short drive away for families in Waterloo, Breslau & St. Jacobs. Our central location means we truly offer family dentistry near you!

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your Dentist in Kitchener or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a dental condition or treatment.

Enjoy a fresh start.
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