As a Portland family dentist, Dr. Beadnell hopes all of her patients take the time to properly brush and floss daily. After all, brushing and flossing rank as the two most effective habits at eliminating plaque – a harmful oral bacteria that contributes to the development of tooth decay and gum disease – from the surface of your teeth and along the gum line. Failing to remove plaque buildup greatly increases your risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease.
So while brushing ranks as a habit we should all embrace, it’s important that we keep in mind the need to use our own toothbrush. This means not sharing between significant others, children, or spouses. The idea of sharing a toothbrush may seem convenient to some – horrific to others – but no matter how the subject strikes you, the consequences of sharing a toothbrush could have a lasting impact on your health.
So you have a better understanding of what risks your health may face, here are a few diseases that can spread between two people that share the same toothbrush.
Lowering your risk of gum disease and tooth decay is one of the primary reasons why brushing ranks as such an important habit. Unfortunately, the bacteria primarily responsible for the development of gum disease – streptococcus – can linger on a toothbrush after use. While this normally isn’t much of an issue as the bacteria will eventually die when left on an exposed toothbrush, people who share a toothbrush have a significantly higher risk of passing this bacteria between each other.
The fact that streptococcus can easily spread becomes even more problematic if only one of the two people who share a toothbrush practices quality oral hygiene. If you brush your teeth twice daily for the recommended amount of time, but share a toothbrush with someone who brushes less frequently, all of your hard work protecting your oral health may come undone.
If you brush immediately after your partner, the harmful oral bacteria from their mouth may linger on the toothbrush and be transferred to your mouth while brushing. If the idea of suffering from someone else’s lack of quality oral hygiene sounds unpleasant, then so too should the idea of sharing a toothbrush.
If you share a toothbrush with someone suffering from the herpes simplex virus, there’s a good chance you will develop an infection. That’s because a toothbrush can become contaminated with bacteria and viruses. The more highly contagious the type of bacteria or virus, the more likely it will be transferred between two people sharing a common toothbrush.
For individuals that share an intimate relationship, preventing the transference of the herpes simplex virus can already prove difficult. However, limiting contact when a partner experiences an outbreak of the virus may not be enough if you also share a toothbrush. The virus can become contagious even before an outbreak becomes visible, so successfully lowering your risk of the disease means not only using your own toothbrush, but also keeping your brushes separated from each other. Despite their functionality, communal toothbrush holders cause brushes to inadvertently touch, thereby increasing the risk of the spread of a bacteria and viruses when left in close proximity.
The ideal place to store your toothbrush is an open air environment that allows the brush to quickly dry after use that is also away from any other toothbrushes, combs, razors, or other health or beauty item that’s used on the head or face.
A 2006 study published in the Journal of Viral Hepatitis found that hepatitis C can be transmitted by sharing a toothbrush. The study found that individuals with hepatitis actually infected their toothbrushes with the disease, making the risk of cross contamination extraordinarily high.
While the disease carries a number of serious symptoms, hepatitis is commonly marked by a loss of appetite, nausea, and jaundice. Individuals suffering from hepatitis can suffer from lifelong health issues, and may be prevented from working in certain industries – such as food handling – as a result of the disease.
Commonly referred to as the “kissing disease,” it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that mono can also be easily transferred between two people sharing a toothbrush. Caused by the Epstein-Barr Virus, mononucleosis is a highly infectious disease that can be spread through blood and saliva. The symptoms of mono include nausea, fever, headache, and can last for several weeks. Mono is typically confused with the flu or a viral fever.
Individuals suffering from mono typically report a crippling loss of energy, often having to miss extend periods of work or school due to being able to get out of bed. Unless you’re looking to take an unpleasant extended break from work or school, you should probably consider getting your own toothbrush whenever a partner becomes sick.
Let’s face it, toothbrushes are cheap and you have very little reason why you should ever need to share yours with someone else. If you need a new toothbrush, just ask the next time you visit your Portland family dentist, Dr. Beadnell, and we’ll be happy to provide you one.