Data suggest that approximately 90 percent of people with HIV will suffer from some type of oral problem as a consequence of their disease. It’s important for HIV patients and their dentists to communicate frequently and identify problems to reduce the risk of oral diseases and/or conditions.
Oral ulcerations can occur in almost 50 percent of HIV patients during the course of their disease. Two types of oral ulcers that should be considered as possible causes of oral infections in HIV patients are:
- Herpes simplex virus (HSV) ulcerations. HSV ulcerations tend to occur on the gingival tissue or hard palate inside the mouth, as well as the lips and oral mucosa outside the mouth. Studies have shown that approximately 10 to 25 percent of HIV patients experience recurrent HSV infections. Treatment usually involves a two-week course or acyclovir, and mouth rinses can help to keep the area clean while the ulcers heal.
- Recurrent aphthous ulcerations (RAU). The exact cause of RAU remains uncertain. They are not more common in HIV patients than in the general population, but tend to be more severe. RAU usually occurs on the insides of the cheeks or the sides of the tongue. The standard treatment involves topical steroids or systemic corticosteroids.
HIV patients are also prone to dry mouth, which can make any oral lesions more severe. So it’s important to take preventive actions such as drinking water more frequently or chewing sugarless gum to help manage dry mouth and reduce the risk for developing any type of oral lesion or ulceration.