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HIV / AIDS and Oral Health

People with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), are at special risk for oral health problems. Some of the most common oral problems in people with HIV/AIDS are: chronic dry mouth, gingivitis, bone loss around the teeth (periodontitis), canker sores, oral warts, cold sores, oral candidiasis (thrush), hairy leukoplakia (which is a rough, white spot on the tongue) and caries. Combination antiretroviral therapy, used to treat HIV disease and restore immune system function, has made some oral problems less common. Oral conditions can be painful, annoying and lead to other problems.

Causes

People with HIV/AIDS have an increased risk of oral health problems because HIV/AIDS weakens the immune system and makes it more difficult to fight infection.

Symptoms

Oral health problems can include:

The most common oral problems associated with HIV can be treated. So talk to your doctor or dentist about what treatment might work for you.

Helpful Tips

In addition to the problems listed in the table above, you may experience dry mouth. Dry mouth occurs when you don't have enough saliva or spit to keep your mouth wet. Saliva helps you chew and digest food, protects teeth from decay, and prevents infection by fighting bacteria and fungi in the mouth. Without enough saliva, you can develop tooth decay or other infections, and you may have trouble chewing and swallowing. Your mouth may also feel sticky or dry and have a burning sensation, and you may have cracked, chapped lips.

Try these things to help with dry mouth:

  • Drink water or sugar-free drinks often
  • Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free hard candies
  • Avoid tobacco
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid salty foods
  • Use a humidifier at night

Talk to your doctor or dentist about prescribing artificial saliva, which can help keep your mouth moist.

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