HIV - AIDS and dentistry


How will HIV and AIDS affect your dental treatment?

There will be oral effects because of your weakened immune system. You will have a harder time fighting off infection because of HIV and AIDS. Some of the following effects are also evident in people who have weakened immune systems

  • dry mouth or xerostomia
  • enlarged lymph nodes or lymphadenopathy
  • thrush or oral candidiasis
  • hairy leukoplakia that is associated with a viral infection like Epstein-Barr virus
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma
  • oral bacterial infections like periodontal gum disease
  • salivary glands that are swollen
  • sores from the herpes simplex virus
  • warts from the human papilloma virus
  • canker sores or aphthuos ulcers


People with HIV will experience certain changes in their mouth and their immune status. There are several oral conditions that can be related to certain levels of strength in an immune system. There are some oral conditions that are evident when your immune system begins to worsen. Other oral conditions are evident in later stages of deteriorating immune systems.

Your dentist will be able to show you how to look for changes in your mouth. Your dentist will show you the proper way of doing an oral exam and how to look for those changes. If you spot these changes then you must tell your dentist or your physician about it.

If you are infected with HIV then it is important that you brush you teeth twice a day, floss once a day, use fluoride mouthwashes, use fluoride toothpastes, and visit the dentist as often as possible. While your immune system is still strong, you must visit your dentist twice a year. If your immune system starts to get worse then you should see your dentist more often.

Dry mouth or xerostomia is a common side effect of some medicines that are used to manage HIV and AIDS. With dry mouth, you are more prone to tooth decay, thrush or oral yeast infection, gingivitis, and periodontal gum disease. With less saliva in your mouth, there will be less fluid to wash away the food, sugars, bacteria, and acids that come from the bacteria. These acids can cause your tooth enamel to decay. Your dentist can prescribe a fluoride rinse, a fluoride gel, or a saliva substitute that can offset the risks of tooth decay and thrush.

How will HIV and AIDS affect dental treatment in children?

Thrush is a widespread problem in children who have the HIV virus. Thrush can be treated using medicated mouth rinses. A lot of medications are given to children with HIV or AIDS and these medications are usually accompanied with a lot of sugar. When the children take these medications, they have to make sure that they rinse so that any tooth decay is avoided. Tooth decay is a very serious problem for children with HIV because it can lead to infection, pain, difficulty in chewing, problems with gaining weight, and malnourishment.

What will be done at the dentist’s office?

You should always tell your dentist about your medical conditions. Moreover, you should consider your dentist as part of your treatment team. Your dentist must know as much as possible about your condition. This will include your immune status, the medications you take, and their respective dosages.

Usually, people with HIV or AIDS do not need to take antibiotics before dental treatment. Antibiotics may be used by your dentist if your blood count or your neutrophil count is low. If you have a condition like neutropenia then you may have to take antibiotics. Your dentist may also prescribe an antibiotic mouth rinse before and after your treatment. Your gums may also be treated with a mouthwash prior to surgery.

AIDS will reduce the blood counts of your platelets. These platelets help in the clotting of blood. If the count of your platelets is above 50,000 then there will not be a lot of changes in your dental treatment. However, if your platelet count is below this number then you should consider getting treated by a special dentist that has a lot of experience treating compromised patients. A general dentist may not be able to perform dental treatment competitively.

AIDS will also reduce the blood count of your red blood cells. Anemia or a low red blood cell count is frequent in people with HIV. This may be a side effect from antiretroviral drug therapy. Your dentist should know the details of your anemia and how serious it is. HIV, AIDS, and all the medications used to treat them can affect your blood count so you must provide your dentist with your latest blood tests.