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To share or not to share?

In an emergency – weekend away, accident tumble into the toilet, apocalypse/world toothbrush shortage – would you miss a night’s brushing, or borrow your partner’s?

“It’s probably about 50/50,” says Samantha Byrne, lecturer in oral biology at the University of Melbourne, in an article published on ABC Life.

Australian Dental Association Queensland president Adrian Frick agrees, saying it’s quite common for people to share toothbrushes. “I often hear references to that effect between spouses and between children.”

People who are immunocompromised need to be careful about sharing toothbrushes, warns Dr Byrne.

“The only problem really is if someone is immunocompromised,” she says. “So [for example] someone who is undergoing chemo or an organ transplant, they need to be really careful with any microorganism they are exposed to.”

Does all this mean sharing a toothbrush is riskier than kissing? Probably not, according to Dr Byrne.

“The reality is if you are kissing somebody, sharing their toothbrush is probably not a huge leap to make,” she says. “If you live with someone, you are probably swapping those microorganisms anyway.”

Dr Frick says “it’s probably a good point” that toothbrush sharing isn’t much different to kissing, but says “if your partner catches a viral infection, the shared toothbrush may be responsible for the transmission of the virus to you. It’s a better idea to have your own toothbrush. It’s low risk.”

When it comes down to it, both our experts agree skipping a night of brushing won’t hurt your oral hygiene in the scheme of things. But if you’d rather brush them, that’s OK, too. Neither option is good long term, however.

Top tip: If you’ve got some white vinegar handy, that is all you need to disinfect your brush before sharing. “A couple of studies show just 10 minutes in a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar is quite effective. Cheap and easy,” Dr Byrne says.

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