Every year on December 1, the world commemorates World AIDS Day. This day brings light to the battle against stopping the HIV/AIDS plague. It also discourages stigma against those living with HIV/AIDS and shows that they too can live rich and fulfilling lives when they are on medication. People living with HIV/AIDS represent a special demographic within oral healthcare and they need even extra attention given the risk they have towards contracting opportunistic infections for which the mouth can be a portal.
How HIV/AIDS affects oral health
The mouth being the proverbial mirror of the body can be a sight where the early manifestations of HIV/AIDS and its associated illnesses can show. People infected with HIV/AIDS may experience the following signs;
- Oral thrush which is a whitish membrane-like lesion
- Kaposi Sarcoma which may appear as purplish lesions
- Ulcers that take long to heal
- Red band gingivitis
- Dry Mouth
These can help in early diagnosis and this management before the disease progresses to debilitating stages. It is thus very important that people living with HIV monitor their oral environment and discuss any changes with their dentist or physician.
How can one cope with dental issues related to HIV
It is imperative that people with HIV maintain an even more meticulous oral hygiene regimen. They can do this by;
- Brushing twice a day
- Doing interdental cleaning
- Having routine dental visits to ensure that their oral health is in check
- Taking a very healthy diet including many fruits and vegetables for optimal health of both the teeth and the other tissues in the mouth
- Trying to remove all possible foci of infection in the mouth including tooth decay
When you visit your dentist, do not be shy to let them know about your status so that they can ensure that you are handled appropriately and they also can protect themselves from the virus. Unless the illness is compromising to treatment, the dentist can provide all routine treatment that may be needed just like they would in any other patient. Let us all aim to keep ourselves and each other safe while we aim to make AIDS a disease of the past.