Where There Is No Dentist 2012 179
Who Gets HIV?
Millions of people all over the world are
infected with HIV. If the body is strong,
the HIV virus can grow quietly for several
years, slowly weakening the immune
system before it turns into AIDS. If the
body is weak, the diseases of AIDS may
develop more quickly.
Both rich and poor people can be infected with HIV, but the sickness is
worse for the poor. This is because poor people get more infections, which
weaken the body, because they do not have access to:
• low-cost health care.
• clean, safe drinking water.
• good sanitation.
• enough nutritious food.
• safe, uncrowded living conditions.
Working to change these
conditions is an important
part of preventing the
spread of HIV and
improving the lives of
people who have HIV.
Most mouth infections
are not caused by
HIV, but all mouth
infections are serious
when a person is
infected with HIV.
How HIV Affects the Mouth
People with HIV are likely to have more problems inside the mouth than
people who do not have HIV. Because their bodies are weaker, any sores
and infections may spread more quickly than they do for healthier people.
So people with HIV may need more regular and careful help from dental
workers than other people in the community.
Most people with HIV will get at least one kind of infection or problem in
the mouth at some time during their illness. If this is not treated, it can be
painful, can affect how much food the person eats, and can cause more
serious health problems.
Infections in the mouth related to HIV affect the soft skin (tissue)—the
lips, the cheeks, the tongue, the lining of the roof of the mouth, under the
tongue, and the skin around the teeth (the gums). HIV does not directly
affect the teeth themselves. In the final stages of AIDS, the gums and the
jaw bone, which hold the teeth in place, may be destroyed. Also, HIV can
cause “dry mouth,” especially for people using ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs),
which makes it easier to get cavities (tooth decay).