World AIDS Day falls on 1 December each year and is held worldwide to unite people in the fight against HIV, in support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.
HIV destroys white blood cells. This prevents the immune system from functioning healthily and ultimately results in the development of AIDS. As the immune system is weakened and unable to fight off infection effectively, HIV-infected patients are at risk of having issues with their oral health.
HIV-related oral conditions
According to studies, oral issues occur in 30-80% of HIV-infected patients. Some of the most common oral problems include thrush, oral warts, recurrent mouth ulcers, dry mouth, cavities and gum disease.
These oral issues affect one’s quality of life in the areas of chewing, eating, swallowing and speaking. Oral pain or discomfort may cause patients to eat less or avoid eating altogether, resulting in unintentional weight loss. Dry mouth also increases the risk of tooth decay.
The good news is most of these oral problems can be treated. It is recommended that one checks with his/her dentist on the most suitable type of treatment.
Dental care for HIV-infected patients
In conclusion, it is important for patients with HIV/AIDS to have proper oral care. Here are a few steps one can take:
- Rule of 2-2-2: Brush your teeth 2 times a day, for 2 minutes each and visit your dentist 2 times a year for regular dental examinations. Such visits would allow your dentist to monitor the progression of the disease and ensure appropriate treatment in a timely manner.
- Take your HIV medications exactly as scheduled and directed.
- Examine your mouth often and tell your dentist if you notice any unusual changes in the way your mouth looks or feels.