Hesperian Health Guides
How HIV Affects the Mouth
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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).