Good oral health is an important part of managing HIV and your overall health. Make oral health care a regular part of taking care of yourself.
With the right treatment, your mouth can feel better. That is a big step toward living well with HIV.
How can HIV affect my oral health?
HIV attacks the immune system, which protects the body from infections and illness.
A weakened immune system can lead to oral infections.
HIV can also cause dry mouth. It can affect the glands that produce saliva, which can cause your mouth to produce less saliva.
- Saliva protects your teeth and gums from plaque, which is a sticky film of bacteria. Plaque buildup can cause tooth decay (cavities), gum disease, and bad breath. Saliva also helps fight off infections.
- If dry mouth is not treated, it can lead to other health problems.
- Dry mouth can also be a side effect of some HIV medicines.
If you have HIV, you’re also at increased risk for oral health problems such as:
- Bleeding gums
- Loose teeth
- Bone loss around the teeth – also known as periodontitis
- Thrush – a mouth infection also called oral candidiasis
- Kaposi sarcoma – a cancer that causes patches of abnormal tissue to grow under the skin, in the lining of the mouth, nose, and throat, or in other organs
- Oral papillomas (warts)
- Canker sores or fever blisters – fluid-filled blisters on the outside of the mouth around the lips
- See your dentist regularly for check-ups, even if you have no natural teeth or have dentures.
- Discuss your HIV status with them to be sure you get the best care.
- Ask about the best way to care for your mouth.
- Ask them to repeat anything you don’t understand.
- Tell them if you experience dry mouth, mouth sores, or notice white, purple, or red patches inside your mouth.
- Tell them if you notice any unusual changes in the way your mouth looks or feels.
- Talk to them about developing an oral health plan.
- Brush your teeth. Brushing is necessary for removing dental plaque.
- Floss every day. Flossing cleans plaque from the parts of your teeth that your toothbrush can’t reach.
- Take all your HIV medications on schedule to protect your immune system and help prevent oral infections.
- Don’t smoke.
- If you smoke and have HIV, you’re at greater risk of getting HIV-related infections, including hairy leukoplakia (white mouth sores) and thrush.
- Smoking increases your risk of gum disease, tooth loss, and cancers of the mouth, throat, and lips.
- If you smoke, ask your dentist for help with quitting. Your dentist can help develop a quit plan that works best for you, such as nicotine replacement therapy (patch, gum, lozenge, or nasal spray), prescription medications, or other methods.
- Find a Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Medical Provider within the United States. HRSA’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program supports training programs, reimburses dental care providers, and gives access to these clinics.
- Access state HIV/AIDS hotlines.
- Find a health center in or near your community.