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You’re Taking Care of Your Teeth, but What About Your Toothbrush?

If you brush and floss twice daily, and see your dentist every six months, your teeth are probably in pretty good shape. But what about your tooth…brush? How well are you caring for it, if at all? Just like you know you shouldn’t eat a lot of sticky sweets, here’s what you need to know you shouldn’t do with your teeth cleaner:

Don’t use the same brush all year.

If you’re wielding your brush right (and regularly), your bristles will show some wear after three to four months. To ensure this doesn’t compromise your cleaning, the American Dental Association recommends getting a new brush (or brush head, if you use an electric brush) at that point. Note: Children’s brushes may need to be replaced more often, especially if your kid has a tendency to bite or chew on his bristles while brushing.

Don’t lay it down.

After brushing, douse your bristles with water to remove any remaining debris, then place your brush in a holder that enables it to stand upright. This allows the brush to dry out better than, say, laying it on a shelf inside your medicine cabinet. Speaking of…

Don’t cover up.

Unless you’re racing out the door to make a flight, don’t ever stash your toothbrush in a container. Why? A closed, moist environment = the perfect breeding ground for microorganisms. Keep your toothbrush out in the open air of your bathroom.

Don’t share.

File this under obvious, but it does bear repeating: If you use your husband’s brush and he has a cold, you likely will soon, too, as his germs are on his bristles. And while you’re at it, if you store your toothbrushes in the same container, don’t let them touch.

Don’t buy one pack of toothbrushes for the whole family.

It’s fine for you and your husband and any teenagers in your house, but children should use toothbrushes that have been designed specifically for kids.

Don’t go hard.

When shopping for a toothbrush, only buy soft-bristled brushes. Medium or firm bristles could damage your gums and tooth enamel.

Don’t try to sanitize it.

The ADA says there is little evidence to support the claim that soaking your toothbrush in antibacterial mouthwash or using a toothbrush sanitizer has any effects on your health. And you shouldn’t try to deep-clean your toothbrush by sticking it in the dishwasher, microwave, or a pot of boiling water—most brushes are not built to withstand high heat, and this could damage it.

Get more great health and wellness stories at MarthaStewart.com/Strive.