Gum disease: Dentist explains how you can prevent it
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Everyone has done it. Sharing a toothbrush becomes a necessity when you forget to pack one and there is no shop nearby. While this communal activity may seem risk-free, it can present hidden health risks. “Whether intentional or accidental, using someone else’s toothbrush can expose your teeth, gums, and mouth to a whole host of nasty things, especially if they’re not as into their oral health routine as you are,” warned Doctor Khaled Kasem, Chief Orthodontist of European orthodontic chain Impress.
Doctor Kasem advocated always using your own toothbrush and there are many salient reasons for this.
Chief among them is that sharing a toothbrush “exposes you to dangerous bacteria”, the doc warned.
As he explained, the mix of bacteria in your mouth is “unique” to you.
“When using someone else’s toothbrush, you’re exposing your mouth to new bacteria which might not react well with your existing bacteria.”
The orthodontist continued: “Up to 700 different species of bacteria can live in our mouth at any one time and while the majority are good for us, there are a few that could do some serious harm.
“The most harmful, associated with tooth decay and gum disease, are streptococcus mutans, porphyromonas gingivalis and treponema denticola, all of which are found to be living on toothbrushes, and you’re more at risk if you’re sharing.”
Gum disease is where the gums become red, swollen and sore, and bleed.
The risks do not stop there. By sharing your toothbrush you could be brushing mould into your teeth, warned Doctor Kasem.
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“The likelihood is that you’ll be using your partner’s toothbrush immediately after them, but that’s the worst thing you can do!”
As the orthodontist explained, not only do harmful bacteria remain on your toothbrush between brushes, but the longer it’s wet, the more likely it is that mould will grow.
“If you insist on using your partner’s toothbrush, at least make sure it’s dry first, as this will ensure most of the bacteria will die before you use it.”
There are some safety protocols you should follow when choosing your toothbrush too.
“Different mouths require different types of toothbrushes, whether it’s firm, medium or soft, using the wrong type of toothbrush every day could cause you long term damage,” explained Doctor Kasem.
Of course, this is only relevant if you’re regularly picking up your partner’s toothbrush.
As the orthodontist noted, “if it’s just the odd occasion the chances are it isn’t going to do you much damage in the long term”.
What’s more, you could end up with a serious illness.
Doctor Kasem said: “It’s not uncommon for gums to bleed during brushing, and if any blood passes from person to person it could lead to blood transmitted diseases, such as hepatitis C. On the odd occasion that you might use your partner’s toothbrush, make sure there is no blood on the brush, and don’t brush your teeth too hard either, as you don’t want to end up with bleeding gums, or worse.”
So, what does the doc advise?
“If you’re sharing a toothbrush with someone you’re already kissing, just don’t make it a regular habit and ensure the toothbrush is dry before you use it.
“It’s always best to pop out and purchase your own toothbrush than risk it – after all you should be changing your toothbrush every three months anyway, so your new one won’t go to waste.”
Gum disease – signs to spot
Symptoms of gum disease include:
- Your gums bleeding when you brush your teeth, floss or eat hard foods such as apples
- Your gums becoming swollen, red and sore.
“It’s very common, but it’s important to get it checked by a dentist,” says the NHS.
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