Sharing toothbrush containers increases risk of COVID-19 transmission, study suggests

Sharing the same toothbrush and toothpaste can significantly increase the spread of COVID-19 transmission, according to latest researchSharing the same toothbrush and toothpaste tube can contribute to the spread COVID-19, latest research reveals.

A new study suggests that even sharing the same toothbrush container is a possible cross-contamination route for coronavirus.

This follows research into hundreds of families over the course of 15 days. Researchers found more than half (55%) of COVID-positive participants who shared a toothbrush passed it onto other household members.

Data also shows one quarter (26%) of Brits are willing to share their toothbrush.

It reveals an even greater risk for families leaving their toothbrushes in the same container, however. For example, two in three (66%) people who were COVID positive and who share a toothbrush container with family members passed the virus on.

Dramatic increase

Other findings include:

  • Households with a COVID-positive member increase their risk of spreading the virus by almost a third (30%) if they share the same tube of toothpaste
  • Additionally, people who disinfect their brush dramatically reduce the chances of transmission. For example, those who disinfect it using an antibacterial mouthwash reduce their chances of passing the virus on by more than a third (39%).

This suggests the same tube of toothpaste should not be used between members of the same family, due to cross-contamination risks.

Dr Nigel Carter is the chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation. ‘There are many hundreds of different bacteria and viruses in our mouths. Those sharing a toothbrush could be passing these on to others,’ he says.

‘While this might be something relatively harmless, such as a common cold or cold sore, if the person you are sharing with is infected with viruses like hepatitis B and now coronavirus, these could also be passed on via the toothbrush, with severe health consequences.

‘Storing toothbrushes in the same container has always been a bad idea. But today this separation has become a real necessity.

‘This is especially important if a person has the virus without the symptoms. They could be unknowingly spreading the virus to loved ones.’

Kill bacteria

He adds: ‘It is important to store your toothbrush away from others, in a dry place and with the brush head pointing upwards.

‘This allows the bristles to dry faster. It hinders the spread of any virus or bacteria that may be lingering on the brush.

‘If you know you are infected, soaking your brush in an antibacterial mouthwash after brushing could also help kill any bacteria and viruses on the toothbrush.’

Do not jump to conclusions

However, doubts have been cast on the results of the study.

Professor Martin Addy argues that other factors could have contributed to transmission risk.

‘The idea of families sharing toothbrushes has been strongly discouraged by the dental profession for as long as I can remember. So in respect of COVID transmission, this is nothing new,’ he said.

‘But this study is a classic example of asking one question to only get one answer. Probably the one you are hoping for.

‘Before we jump to conclusions, this study is not remotely controlled. No other factor as a possible cause of spread in a family unit is considered. And there are numerous ones (kissing, hugging, shaking hands etc).

‘Also, there is no analysis or separation of families into those who shared toothbrushes but did not use toothpaste and those who did.’

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