ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Dentists have told us for years to brush after every meal, but how often should you replace your toothbrush?

Oral hygiene is more important than many people realize, experts say. According to Dr. Michelle Kelman, a lecturer at UCLA School of Dentistry, improper care of your teeth can lead to serious health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.

“You have to remember that oral medicine is a part of medicine, and that’s something that’s forgotten. Dentistry tends to be treated like that thing on the side,” Kelman told CNBC.

Colgate recommends replacing your toothbrush every three to four months. The American Dental Association says rinsing the toothbrush after every use is a necessary step, and storing it in an upright position to allow it to dry.

The ADA recommends against storing a toothbrush in a closed container, which can allow microbial growth.

Also, you should consider getting a new toothbrush if you’ve been sick, Colgate adds.

“When in doubt, you need to look at the bristles,” says Kelman. 

Using a toothbrush with frayed bristles can lead to leaving plaque behind and allowing germs to build up in your mouth.

Those germs and bacteria can travel through your blood vessels to your heart, according to Harvard Medical School.

A 2018 study showed that there was also a correlation between tooth loss and coronary heart disease. Other studies have linked periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis and pancreatic cancer.