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The hidden dangers of sharing your toothbrush

Have you or would you ever let another person use your toothbrush? You may be one of the many people who find the very notion of sharing your toothbrush unthinkable. A recent study carried out by the Oral Health Foundation and Philips, as part of National Smile Month, has found that a surprising number of British adults are openly willing to share their toothbrush. This was only one of the findings of the brand new research – and has revealed the need to alert people to the hidden dangers.

Toothbrush sharing in numbers

  • 26% of people are happy to share a toothbrush with a friend, family member, neighbour or celebrity.
  • 32% of men are likely to allow somebody else to borrow their toothbrush
  • 20% of women are likely to allow somebody else to borrow their toothbrush
  • 55% of younger adults see no problem with sharing their toothbrush
  • 30% of their parents would be willing to share
  • 13% of their grandparents would be willing to share

As the poll reveals, there is a significant difference in attitudes between men and women, as well as between generations. Men are much more likely to allow somebody else to borrow their toothbrush than women. Young people are more likely to find toothbrush sharing agreeable than their grandparents.

Why sharing is not caring

The surprising findings have led Dr Ben Atkins, Dentist and Trustee of the Oral Health Foundation to issue an important message to warn people against the idea of sharing their toothbrushes. Many people are unaware of the risks, in particular, the fact that it can lead to many health problems.

According to Dr Atkins: “Although it may seem like a kind gesture to share your toothbrush, it really is not a very good idea. Sharing a toothbrush leaves you susceptible to all sorts of oral and general health problems. Just because you kiss a partner or occasionally share a fork or spoon during mealtimes with them, does not justify using their toothbrush.

He continues to say “This is because brushing sometimes causes the gums to bleed, which exposes everyone you share your toothbrush with to blood stream diseases. By sharing a toothbrush, you could also be sharing blood, which is a lot riskier than just swapping saliva.

“There are many hundreds of different bacteria and viruses in our mouths and people sharing a toothbrush could be passing these on to others. While this might be something relatively harmless, such as a common cold or cold sore, if the person you are sharing with is infected with hepatitis B or HIV these could also be passed on via the toothbrush, with severe health consequences.”

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation also feels a need to reinforce the important message that sharing is not caring: “The mouth harbours hundreds of different kinds of bacteria, that can be easily transferred from one person to another. You can control this by only using your own toothbrush. By avoiding using other people’s toothbrushes you will prevent the mixing of bacteria and plaque. This will protect the health of yourself as well as others.”

Tips for good oral hygiene

The recent National Smile Month campaign is an annual campaign which helps to promote a positive attitude towards good oral hygiene. As one of the biggest campaigns of its kind,one of the key missions is to highlight the importance of three key points –

  • Brush your teeth last thing at night and on at least one other occasion with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Cut down on how much sugary food and drink you have, and how often you have them.
  • Visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.

With the findings of this latest survey, the organisers are now keen to also send out a message that ensuring your toothbrush is not used by anybody else is vital to avoid unnecessary risks to your oral health.

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