There's a lot of things the bristles on your toothbrush can tell you. If they are slightly red, for example, it means your gums might be bleeding as you brush, a possible sign of gingivitis. You might also notice that the bristles are matted or splayed out. If so, you need to replace your toothbrush and possibly speak to your dentist.
Here's why splayed and matted bristles are an issue you should take seriously.
Fails to Clean
If you've ever seen an advert for a toothbrush, you've probably noticed how much companies talk about the way bristles are oriented. This is no accident. Most modern toothbrush orient their bristles in the perfect way to get all over your teeth and provide a superior clean. When those bristles become spayed and matted, they are no longer able to clean around the whole tooth. When you brush, you'll only be covering certain portions, and those you do cover won't be brushed as effectively.
Damages the Gums
Bristles are made in a certain length and laid out in a certain orientation to ensure a proper clean, but that's not all. Your toothbrush should be made to brush right down to the gum line without actually coming in control with the gums too much. When the bristles get splayed out, their tops come into contact with the gums more frequently. Even worse, the tops of those bristles, which will have been rounded into a soft dome during the manufacturing process, will become sharpened through extensive brushing, making them more abrasive. This can cause irritation and possibly lead to receding gums.
Could Indicate Overuse
You can't keep using the same toothbrush forever. In fact, most dentists advise changing up every 3 or 4 months. If you've been using your toothbrush properly and the bristles are still all splayed and matted, you've almost certainly been using that toothbrush too long – time to throw it out and pick up another, or simply change the head if you're using an electric toothbrush.
Could Indicate Overbrushing
Perhaps you're scratching your head and thinking you just replaced your toothbrush a couple of weeks ago, and yet the bristles are still splayed and matted. If so, you've almost certainly been overbrushing. Pressing down too hard can seem like a good idea, but you don't need much pressure to remove plaque and food debris. When you press down hard, what you're actually doing is wearing down tooth enamel. If your bristles get splayed and matted after only a few weeks, change up and ease off – you should also visit your dentist so they can check for signs of excessive wear.
For more information about proper brushing techniques and the importance of replacing your toothbrush regularly, speak with a dentist in your area.