If you are HIV-positive, you should tell your oral surgeon and other dental professionals in order to receive the best care. While you do not have to reveal your health status, putting the dentist on notice can make him more aware of conditions to look for in your mouth that could impact your overall health.
Full Disclosure to Your Oral Surgeon Won’t Impact Treatment
You may feel that your status is not his concern or might impact the treatment you receive. Discriminating against those with AIDs or HIV is forbidden both by the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), and you have the right to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights if you feel you have been improperly treated. To make sure you find a dentist attuned to the special needs of patients with your condition, you might ask your physician for a referral.
As a healthcare provider, your dentist is bound by the confidentiality provisions of HIPPA, so your status will not become public knowledge. If you are asked about the status on a patient form or an insurance form, you should answer honestly and with confidence.
Since all staff in a medical office follow universal healthcare precautions, which involves them wearing gloves and perhaps even masks when they are working close to a patient’s mouth, your status will not impact their health. However, if you were bleeding and your blood came into contact with an open sore on a worker there would be a risk.
Why Dental Care is Important if You Have HIV
When you have HIV, your dental health is particularly important. Why?
- Loose, decayed, or missing teeth can prevent you from eating properly and getting the nutrition you need.
- Poor dental health can further stress your weakened immune system.
- If you have decayed teeth or ulcers in your mouth or gums, bacteria can enter your bloodstream.
- Early detection of dental problems can prevent more serious infection.
What Your Dentist Looks Out For
As an HIV patient, you are likely to develop specific health conditions that your dentist can be on the lookout for if he is armed with a knowledge of your status. For example:
- Medications offered for your HIV and other conditions can reduce saliva production and cause dry mouth or xerostoma, which can lead to increasing tooth decay and infections, and cause problems during procedures.
- If your CD4 cell count is below 150 you are likely to develop gingivitis, mouth ulcers, and thrush or oral candidiasis (yeast.)
- You are also more likely to pick up the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which may cause cell changes in your oral cavity that can lead to oral cancer, as well as oral warts
- If you have gum disease, you have an increased risk for developing heart disease or diabetes.
- If you are pregnant, you also have increased risk of inflammation, bleeding, and gum disease.
When your dentist picks up any of these conditions, he can either treat you properly, take special precautions, or in some cases, refer you to the proper specialist. In addition, he can set up an oral hygiene program for you that might include brushing and flossing at home as well as more frequent in office cleaning.
If you are HIV-positive, make sure to tell your oral surgeon at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah so that you will receive the best treatment.