T he HIV epidemic is one of the most serious to affect humanity. Regular oral health care is essential for health- especially for people with HIV. Inadequate oral health care can undermine HIV treatment regimens and diminish quality of life. People who are positive need comprehensive and individualized oral health care, yet large numbers of people with HIV have unmet needs for oral health care.
Oral heath programme initiated by the WHO, can make important contributions to the early diagnosis, prevention and treatment of the disease. A lot of studies have demonstrated that about 45% of persons who are HIV positive most likely have an oral fungal, bacterial or oral infection which often occurs early in the course of the disease diagnosis. Oral lesions strongly associated with HIV infection are pseudo- membranous oral candidiasis, oral hairy leukoplakia, HIV gingivitis and periodontitis, Kaposi sarcoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and xerostomia which is commonly known as dry mouth brought about by a decreased level of salivary flow. Saliva is very important as it includes electrolytes, proteins, antibacterial compounds, enzymes and also proteins. Decreased production in saliva makes it unable to wash away sugars and acids that are produced by bacteria thus causing tooth decay.
In case the HIV patient is a child, thrush becomes a common problem of the mouth. Thrush can be treated with mouth rinses that are medicated. The medications given to HIV sick children are usually sugary. If the sugary medicines are taken, the child should rinse their mouths with water afterwards to avoid cases of tooth decay. This becomes a big problem to the child as it leads to pain, infection, chewing difficulties and problems involving malnutrition.
People with HIV suffer more damaging cases of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is an extreme inflammatory process that affects the tissues and the structures of the bone that supports the teeth. It can happen to anyone but, mostly it occurs in people with low immunity. There are two types of periodontal disease namely: Necrotizing Ulcerative Periodontis (NUP) and Linear Gingival Erythema (LFE).
The NUP is an indicator of severe immune system compromise. Their characteristics are severe pain, bleeding, premature tooth loss and halitosis. Linear Gingival Erythema is characterized by a red band that appears along the gum line and it causes bleeding and a lot of pain.