A Guide to Oral Care and HIV/AIDS
With all the stress, worries and special measures that need to be taken when you’re diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, it’s easy for dental care to fall through the cracks. Unfortunately if oral hygiene is sub-par, patients will find themselves suffering from an unhealthy mouth, damaged gums and destroyed teeth. Learn how to mind oral care if you have HIV/AIDS.
Avoid Possibilities of Immuno-Compromise
People who have been affected by the HIV virus have to be particularly careful to avoid any possibilities of immuno-compromise or immuno-depression, explains Pankaj Singh, DDS, founder and CEO of Arch Dental in New York. That involves leading a healthy-choice lifestyle and taking care of the body – especially the mouth. Dr. Singh underscores that people with HIV/AIDS need to pay special attention to any signs of inflammation, especially in the gums and mucous membranes (sloughing of the mucous membranes is common symptom of the illness).
Another sign of inflammation are bleeding gums, and this is particularly troublesome as it (and saliva) can be a source of virus transmission. Mitchell Charnas, DMD, of Manhattan Dental Spa, says that since HIV affects the immune system, any dentist treating someone with the virus must be sure to look for manifestations in the mouth, such as thrush, which appears as white patches on the mouth and is a type of fungus. If it goes unchecked, it can cause severe respiratory problems – especially for people with HIV/AIDS, who have weakened immune systems. Dentists should also check for leukoplakia, which have been shown to lead to shorter lifespan and canker sores, which can be very painful.
Go to the Dentist Often
People affected by HIV/AIDS should seek professional dental checkups and hygiene care more often than the typically-recommend two times a year, in the hopes of maintaining good oral health and preventing inflammation and infections originating from odontogenic sources. Dr. Charnas notes that preventive care is essential because HIV-positive patients can develop an increased number of cavities and periodontal disease due to the development of a dry mouth. When visiting their dentist, affected patients should always request a thorough exam where the dentist looks for cavities, periodontal disease and various lesions in the mouth. A comprehensive exam is crucial for preventing tooth decay, gum disease and infections of the mouth. To that end, it’s imperative that the affected person lets their dentist know that they are living with HIV so that the dentist knows to pay particularly close attention to these key conditions.
Take Care of Your Overall Health
Aside from brushing and flossing your teeth, tongue and gums at least twice a day (ideally after every meal), people living with HIV/AIDS should use antibacterial and fluoride rinses regularly to help prevent gum and periodontal disease. A good brushing should take at least two minutes, and toothbrushes should be replaced every month or two. It’s also crucial, according to Singh, that patients keep a well-balanced nutritious diet, and he highlights that it is a simple and easy way of helping maintain one's health. Patients should never share their toothbrush and tongue cleaners with anyone else and should make their health care providers, including their dentist and hygienist, aware of any changes in their health status or medications they are taking.