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Sharing a toothbrush puts your life at risk

By Vision Reporter

Added 17th June 2013 12:43 PM

Several couples we interviewed have shared a toothbrush. But this can be dangerous. Dentists warn that such a practice exposes a person to bloodstream diseases like hepatitis,

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Sunday Vision

Several couples we interviewed have shared a toothbrush. But this can be dangerous. Dentists warn that such a practice exposes a person to bloodstream diseases like hepatitis, Stella Naigino writes

Muhammad Ntanzi does not see why sharing a toothbrush with his wife is such a big problem. “This happens especially when they are kept in the same place. When I am going to brush, I end up using any toothbrush because I do not care whether it is mine or hers,” he reasons.
 
Like Ntanzi, Irene often shares a toothbrush with her husband. After all, she argues, marriage is about sharing all you have. She actually views sharing a toothbrush with her husband as a way of achieving deeper intimacy as a couple. If I can kiss him, what is wrong with sharing a small thing like a toothbrush?” Irene reasons.

Disease risk
However, dentists discourage the practice because it is unhealthy. According to Deo Mawona, a senior dental surgeon at SAS Dental Clinic, sharing a toothbrush with someone else is really a bad idea, not only from a hygienic standpoint, but from a medical standpoint as well.
 
He says some partners find it comfortable to share toothbrushes but this is not proper because they expose each other to germs and gum diseases, which show with a bad breath.
 
“Just because you kiss a partner, sleep with them or occasionally taste the pudding on their spoon, these are not reasonable justifications for using their toothbrush,” Mawano says.
 
This is because brushing sometimes causes the gums to bleed, which exposes everyone you share your toothbrush with to blood stream diseases. Therefore, by sharing a toothbrush, the couples are actually sharing blood, which is a lot more risky than just sharing saliva.
Mawano notes that some of the bloodstream diseases, like hepatitis, are extremely infectious.
 
“So, if you share someone’s toothbrush, you automatically introduce millions of their oral bacteria into your mouth and likewise leaving undesirable bacteria on the brush for them,” Mawano says.
 
He adds that dental cavities are caused by bacteria called streptococcus mutans that are contagious. When you share a toothbrush, you are prone to acquiring periodontal diseases. Causative bacteria can easily be passed from person to person by kissing and sharing of utensils and oral hygiene tools like toothbrushes.
 
Other diseases a person risks contracting when he or she shares a toothbrush with another are cold sores, herpes and fungus.
 
If you must share
If you find yourself in the rare position where you must use someone else’s toothbrush, Mawano says you should boil it first, or clean it with a strong antiseptic. 
 
Most people rinse their toothbrushes with cold water after brushing their teeth but, according to Mawano, this is not an effective way to kill bacteria.  
 
He recommends using warm water to rinse the toothbrush as a better option, especially if you are going to use someone else’s toothbrush. 
 
For good oral hygiene
Regardless of whether you share a toothbrush or not, you need to observe good oral hygiene for a healthy mouth and teeth. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day aside, you need to think about your teeth when choosing the foods you eat.
 
According to Dr. Tom Mutyabule, a dentist with Pan Dental clinic in Kampala, it is important to focus on foods that promote a healthy mouth and teeth. Dairy products such as cheese, milk and plain yoghurt protect tooth enamel by providing the calcium and phosphorus needed to mineralise teeth and keep them strong.
 
Fibre-rich fruits and vegetables are also essential for a healthy mouth. They are great food choices because they have a high water content, which helps stimulate the flow of saliva to wash away food particles.
 
We all need vitamins to promote growth and a healthy body. The vitamins that are essential for a healthy mouth include vitamin B for healthy gums and bones; vitamin C to keep gums healthy; and vitamin D to strengthen teeth and bones. Always avoid sugary drinks as they increase the risk of tooth decay.
 

Ask the expert
 
Can I use a toothbrush for as long as I want?
No, because toothbrushes, just like clothes, get worn out. You should change your toothbrush at least every three months and never share it with another person.
 
How can I take good care of my teeth?                         
It is important that everyone brushes at least twice a day, especially before you go to bed and after breakfast. 
Unfortunately, most people ignore this yet it is very vital for oral hygiene. Others brush before taking breakfast, yet it is wrong. Dental flossing is very important as well. 
 
How can I keep my toothbrush clean?
You should use boiling water to sterilise the toothbrush, although this distorts the bristles. To protect your gum, use toothbrushes with soft bristles because toothbrushes with hard bristles are more likely to cause nicks in the gum, which allows bacteria to enter the bloodstream.
 
You should also avoid keeping your toothbrush in the bathroom unless it is stored in its own sealed container.
 
 
 

Sharing a toothbrush puts your life at risk

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