By Kenneth J Canzoneri DDS
Dear Dr. KC: A few weeks ago I had a few of my high school girl friends over for an overnight get-together. A couple of the girls did not bring their toothbrush so I let one of them use my toothbrush. I rinsed the toothbrush with water so I did not think it was a big deal. My mom was totally grossed out. Who was right?
– Clean Teeth
Dear Clean Teeth:
Sharing a toothbrush may sound harmless but it comes with a lot of risks. Some of those risks could even kill you. Brushing your teeth is one of the most effective habits to get rid of plaque and gum disease. Your mouth is home to more than 700 species of bacteria. Yes, using someone else’s toothbrush can transfer these bacteria to another person’s mouth. Not all these 700 bacteria are harmful but a few can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, infection and illness. Other creatures that can be spread sharing a toothbrush are viruses, the common cold, strep throat, herpes, the flu, pneumonia, and even human papillomavirus (HPV).
Am I grossing you out yet? I can do even better. Another person’s mouth can have bleeding gums, food particles, fungi such as yeast infections and periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is what causes many people to lose their teeth and it can be transferred on a toothbrush. Periodontal disease is not just a problem that’s limited to the mouth. Periodontal disease can affect the whole body.
Let’s say you are stranded in the middle of nowhere. No CVS, hotel, of AM/PM minimart and no toothbrush. Using your finger or a washcloth is a better alternative than borrowing your friend’s toothbrush.
Sharing a toothbrush is actually dangerous!