If you are HIV positive you will need to see the dentist more often than people who are not. Your medications will more than likely cause the following conditions with your mouth and teeth:
- Dry mouth
- Thrush – yeast infection
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Swelling of the salivary glands
- Canker sores
- HPV warts
- periodontal (gum) disease
For those with HIV changes in your oral health can mean changes in your immune status. Changes in your oral health can show up in the early stages when your immune system starts to get worse others show up later in patients with HIV.
One of the common side effects of the medications you take for HIV is dry mouth which causes tooth decay, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. The reason is that you have a dry mouth you produce less saliva which means you cannot wash food, bacteria, sugars and other stuff from your mouth when you swallow. The dentist will need to get you on fluoride rinse or gel and/or a saliva substitute.
HIV/AIDS and children
A serious problem for children with HIV/AIDS is tooth decay, which can lead to tooth pain, not being able to chew well, and malnourishment.
Thrush is also another issue; there are medicated rinses for that.
Many of the HIV medications prescribed to children are a thick liquid containing a lot of sugar to make them taste good; you need to make sure your child rinses their mouth well after taking these medications each time with water.
What to do at the dentist
The first and most important thing is to make your dentist aware of your HIV status, along with all the medications, vitamins, or other supplements you take for it. This will allow your dentist to be part of your treatment. Besides prescribing things like rinses and saliva substitute they can get you on a program that will reduce your risks. Patient education is an integral part of the program. Part of what your dentist may prescribe to you are fluoride varnishes that will be done in the office, toothpaste that add minerals and rinses that contain fluoride and reduce acid in the mouth. Your dentist call also shows you how to do a correct oral exam, and how to spot certain oral changes. If these changes occur be sure to tell your dentist and your doctor.
Give your dentist a copy of your latest blood count as anemia can be a common issue with people with HIV. Generally, you will not need antibiotics before major dental procedures but the dentist may use them if your blood count is low. Your dentist may also prescribe an antiseptic a mouthwash containing chlorhexidine both before and after your treatment.
What you can do to help your oral care
- use a fluoride toothpaste and rinse
- daily brushing
- get regular dental check-ups
People with HIV/AIDS should see a dentist every six months but if your disease gets worse you will need to see your dentist more often.