ADA responds to claim that HIV spreads via toothbrush sharing

By Melissa Busch, associate editor

November 17, 2020 -- The head of an independent charity in the U.K. has been criticized after claiming that a person can get HIV by sharing an infected person's toothbrush, though the virus is not spread through saliva, according to news reports.

Both the ADA and HIV Scotland have denounced claims made by Dr. Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation. Carter made the remarks in an article on the charity's site as well as other publications on November 10, and the reference has since been removed from the reports. Carter made the remarks after a new study indicated that people could get COVID-19 if they share an infected person's toothbrush.

"The American Dental Association does not recommend the practice of sharing toothbrushes, though there is no evidence demonstrating HIV transmission through use of a shared toothbrush," the association noted in a statement.

HIV is not passed from one person to another through saliva, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is very rare, but transmission can occur if people kissing both have bleeding gums or sores, enabling the virus to enter the bloodstream of the HIV-negative person.

In response to the COVID-19 study, Carter said, "There are many hundreds of different bacteria and viruses in our mouths and those sharing a toothbrush could be passing these on to others.

"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 hepatitis B, HIV and now coronavirus, these could also be passed on via the toothbrush, with severe health consequences."

Nathan Sparling, chief executive of HIV Scotland, was the first to condemn the comments, saying remarks like that contribute to stigma and misinformation. However, he did recognize that other infections such as COVID-19 potentially could be passed through toothbrush sharing.

Since the backlash, "HIV" has been removed from his quote in every published story.

Copyright © 2020

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