Forgot your toothbrush on your recent trip, so shared one with you spouse/friend/sister? You may not have realized that the bacteria remaining on a toothbrush from the mouth could cause you to become sick or even kill you.
We all understand our hands become dirty and understand we transmit germs and virus’ by touching, but few people know that the mouth is home to more than 700 species of bacteria according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology. Bacteria that can be shared by kissing, sharing the same cup, spoon/fork and yes- your toothbrush because you are essentially swapping bodily fluids, in this case, saliva.
Not all 700 species are harmful, but staph and e. coli can lead to illness. The common cold and strep are the most likely to make you sick, but pneumonia, herpes, and even HIV and HPV (human papilloma virus), can also be transmitted by sharing toothbrushes. So basically, swapping brushes means that whatever was in their mouth is now in yours- especially if they don’t rinse, clean or change it often.
If you find yourself without a toothbrush, using a clean finger or wet washcloth would be the best option. Good toothbrush maintenance includes these tips from the American Dental Association’s Mouth Healthy website.