Why You Should Never Share A Toothbrush
And what to do when you have forgotten yours….
There have been some recent surveys carried out about people’s toothbrush sharing habits. The results showed that around one in four of us would happily share our toothbrush with members of our own family and perhaps close friends too. The highest group for this was younger males under the age of 20.
Under normal circumstances, few of us would share a toothbrush and each family member would have their own brush. There may be times though, when we simply forget to pack ours when we go away for a weekend or to visit relatives. The most obvious thing to do then is to buy a new one to replace it, even if it is just a cheap temporary ‘stop gap’ one.
Where this is not possible, the temptation may be to share a toothbrush with other family members. There are many good reasons why you should not do this as our Chelmsford family dentist explains.
The biggest risk of sharing a toothbrush with anyone is the risk of cross infection. Although saliva contains bacteria, lots of it, both good and bad, it is where blood infections are passed on that it can be particularly serious.
We may know, or at least think we know, the habits of our nearest and dearest which eliminate the most serious of these risks, but anyone can, and most people do at some point, have some degree of periodontal disease. The risk of passing this on is much greater if you share a toothbrush with someone.
Although someone with bleeding gums caused by gingivitis or periodontitis is more likely to pass on this infection, the gums don’t have to be bleeding for this to be a risk. A toothbrush will collect bacteria from within the gum pockets which can then easily be passed to anyone you share your brush with.
It isn’t just bacterial infections either. Viral infections such as colds, flu and even cold sores can be passed on in this way.
Hepatitis and HIV
Although the risk of these diseases is relatively low if you share with family members only, the risk is still there, and of course is much higher if you share with strangers.
Although both of these are treatable, they are serious diseases that can be life changing and potentially life threatening. It may be hard to believe that you could contract them simply by sharing a toothbrush, but you can, and it really isn’t worth the risk.
At Blue Sky Dental, our advice to any patient that forgets their toothbrush when on holiday is to buy one as soon as possible. If you arrive at your hotel late in the evening and all the shops are shut, you shouldn’t borrow a family member’s toothbrush ‘just this once’ until you can buy one in the morning. Even once is enough to pass on an infection.
Instead, to help keep your teeth and gums healthy until you can buy a new brush, here are a few tips.
Using paper towels
If your hotel room has some strong paper towels available, these are useful for cleaning your teeth as a stop gap measure. The rougher surface of this paper will help to remove some of the residue that has become stuck to your teeth and gum line during the day. You should, of course, use toothpaste with this as well to aid the effect.
Where paper towels are not available, using a clean handkerchief in the same way is reasonably effective too.
If you regularly carry sugar free chewing gum with you, this is a useful tool to help keep your teeth clean. It works in two key ways. Firstly, by increasing the quantity of saliva that you produce, which will help to wash away food debris and bacteria. Secondly, the stickiness of the gum will also pick up bacteria and food that has become trapped in between the teeth. For those who really struggle to use dental floss, this substitute is worth investigating.
Almost anywhere that you are in the UK, water will be available. We should make sure to stay hydrated as this will help to keep our gums healthy. Water can also be used to swill around the mouth to help to loosen and remove food and some bacteria. Although this is definitely not as effective as brushing, it will help, especially for a short term solution until you can buy a new toothbrush.
No matter how well you think you know the person who you are tempted to share your toothbrush with, please don’t. You will almost certainly be able to buy a replacement brush soon and the tips above will help to keep your mouth healthy until then.
For optimal oral health, you also need to see a dentist and hygienist regularly. If you live in the Chelmsford area of Essex and would like to make an appointment to see one of the dentists at Blue Sky Dental, you can do so by calling us on 01245 211070. We look forward to your call!