Don’t Share Your Toothbrush!

Don’t Share Your Toothbrush!

When asked in a recent survey, over a quarter of people said that they had, or would, share with others.

A recent survey carried out by the Oral Health Foundation and Phillips (the toothbrush manufacturers) found that 26% of the respondents admitted that they would share their toothbrush with other people, usually members of their own family.

Predominantly, men are more likely to do this than women (32% to 20%), with younger people being even more likely to do so.

Although it may seem to be not an unreasonable thing to do if someone has forgotten theirs, and are in a situation where it is not practical to simply buy a new one; to do so is to put your own health at risk. Your local Clapham dentists explain the reasons why, below.

Blood diseases

Although we might kiss our nearest and dearest, there is far less risk in the exchange of saliva than there is where blood infections are concerned. Especially where a person is suffering from periodontal diseases, there is a real risk of infection being transmitted from one person to the other if a toothbrush is shared. Even where the gums are not bleeding, our toothbrushes collect a fair amount of bacteria from the gum pockets and these can also be transmitted to the other person.

Although there are risks attached, even if we share with a family member or regular partner, the risks are even higher if we share them with a stranger.  At the lower risk end are illnesses such as colds and cold sores which could be quite easily passed on in this manner. There are more serious diseases too which we may not be aware of.

Hepatitis B

Although a vaccine is available to help prevent the spread of this disease, it is usually more prevalent in people who intravenously inject drugs or regularly have unprotected sex with different partners. These are probably a group of people who may not even seek out the vaccine.

If infected with hepatitis B, liver diseases are likely. As these are often barely noticeable until the more advanced stages, they can be potentially quite serious.


Whilst the HIV virus is now more treatable than in the past, it is still a very serious disease, and should be avoided. Even if you are careful in other personal areas of your life, it is still possible to become infected through sharing a toothbrush. Although the risks may be relatively low, it really isn’t worth the risk.

What to do if you forget your own toothbrush

It can happen to all of us. Perhaps we are on holiday and have been out for a nice meal and arrive back at the hotel, or apartment, tired and ready for bed. We go to our suitcases and find that we have forgotten to pack a toothbrush.

Obviously, if this happens whilst the shops are open, the best thing to do is to buy a replacement one, but if this is not possible, you should still try to clean your teeth before going to bed.

There are a number of ways that you can do this, and, whilst none are as good as a proper brushing, they are certainly better than doing nothing at all.

Paper towels

If you can find some clean and strong paper towel, this can be reasonably effective as a temporary measure. Ideally, you won’t have also forgotten your toothpaste, so simply apply some toothpaste to the paper towel and wrap it around your finger and brush with it as best as you can. Although more difficult than with a toothbrush, do try to reach at the back of the rear teeth, a common place for tooth decay.

If no paper towels are available, a clean handkerchief, or even a bare (clean) finger, can be used instead which will provide at least some benefit.

Sugar free gum

Whilst this will not fully replace brushing your teeth; if you have some sugar free gum (and it must be sugar free), chewing this will help to remove some of the bacteria from your teeth and the gum line. Remember to dispose of it sensibly though and do not swallow it.

If all else fails, use water

If nothing is handy to use as a temporary replacement, even plain old water can be helpful. Rinsing water vigorously around the mouth and spitting can help to dislodge food particles and bacteria from between the teeth. Do this several times before you go to bed.

In summary, the golden rules are 1) Never share a toothbrush. 2) Always make an attempt to clean your teeth, even if only water is available and 3) Make sure to replace your old toothbrush at the first possible opportunity.

Finally, and especially if you have been in a situation where you were unable to access a toothbrush for a few days, make an appointment at the Confidental Clinic in Clapham, to see our hygienist who can give your teeth and gums a professional clean to get you back on track.

Appointments with our friendly team can be made by calling us on 020 7801 9060.