HIV and Oral Care

About HIV and Oral Care

Patients who are HIV positive may encounter health problems. The most common problems are related to oral health. Most healthy people and sick patients neglect their mouths and don’t seek adequate dental care. A healthy mouth is important to a healthy lifestyle. When diagnosed with HIV, your mouth has to be healthy. A neglected mouth may result in infections which may have serious effects on your teeth and body.
This pamphlet will assist you in looking after your teeth to prevent tooth and gum disease.

The importance of looking after your teeth

Healthy teeth are important when you need to eat, speak and chew. If your teeth are not healthy, it means you won’t be able to eat. If you can’t eat, essential vitamins and minerals which are necessary for your body to function properly are lost. Eating properly will prevent you from losing weight and becoming more ill. ARV’s and certain medications can cause dry mouth (xerostomia) which will cause rapid tooth decay. Harmful bacteria in the mouth from rotten teeth and bleeding gums are extremely harmful to your body and need to be treated.

Signs of an unhealthy mouth:

•  Rotten/ Broken teeth
•  Bleeding gums
•  Gum boils (Abscesses)
•  Bad breath
•  Loose and painful teeth
•  Cold sores and infections which don’t heal
•  Hard plaque deposits (calculus) on teeth
•  Painful mouth ulcers

Getting Started: Visiting your Dentist and Oral hygienist

Your local Oral Health Care Provider can assist you in getting your mouth healthy again. They will be able to diagnose and treat any oral health problems as well as educate you on how to look after your teeth. He or she will assist you with scheduling regular check-up and cleaning appointments. Three or six monthly check-ups and teeth cleanings are advisable to keep the gums firm and healthy. This will prevent teeth from becoming loose and prevent bleeding gums. Rotten teeth can be treated by your dentist. Your dentist can check for rotten teeth when you arrive for your three or six monthly visits. Painful mouth sores, which make eating difficult, can be treated with mouthrinses and creams which your dentist can prescribe

Home Maintenance for Healthy teeth and gums:

Home maintenance is just as important as going to the dentist. If you’re not feeling well to go visit your dentist, try these dental tips to help you keep your teeth healthy.
•  Brush your teeth: brush your teeth twice (x2) daily with a soft toothbrush. Using a soft toothbrush will remove harmful plaque and prevent damage to the gums.
•  Floss Daily: regular flossing helps to remove plaque that your toothbrush can’t remove. Flossing your teeth removes harmful food particles which cause your teeth to become rotten.
•  Fluoride toothpaste: use toothpaste with fluoride to prevent rotten teeth.
•  Fluoride rinses/mouthwashes: a fluoride mouthwash that doesn’t contain alcohol will help to prevent rotten teeth and also wash away any unwanted food trapped in the mouth. Rinsing your mouth with a fluoride mouthwash can enhance your tooth brushing and flossing. It is important that you don’t replace tooth brushing and flossing with mouth rinsing. Teeth have to be brushed and flossed twice daily.
•  Eat Healthy: A healthy diet is not only good for your body but good for your teeth too. Avoid sugary food such as fizzy drinks, sweets, chips and chocolates. Snack on fresh fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water. Drinking water will help your mouth stay moist, especially with medicines which can make your mouth dry.
•  Don’t smoke: Smoking is harmful when you have HIV. When you smoke your body and your mouth won’t be able to heal properly and fight off harmful infections. Smoking causes an increase in plaque build-up, damages your throat and causes many gum problems.
•  Daily checks: daily check ups in front of the mirror are important so that you can notice any signs of problems and changes in your mouth. After you brush and floss your teeth check your tongue, under your tongue, palate, gums, teeth, throat and the insides of your cheeks for problems. If you notice any thing different, get it checked out with your dentist immediately.

A healthy mouth will make you feel good and your body feel good too. You can live a healthy life with HIV. Don’t forget to keep your mouth healthy and visit your dentist every three or six months. Your mouth and your body will thank you.