Going to the dentist isn't any fun, but it is one of those things that just has to be done. For years, I fought the process and didn't go for my regular cleanings and in the end, it sure didn't pay to do so. I ended up spending ten times as much time in the chair and a boat-load of money in dental repairs. If you don't like going to the dentist, you can make it easier on yourself. This blog will show you a few tips that can help you improve the experience and get through the treatment without as much discomfort.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is no longer the death sentence it once was, with many HIV-positive individuals actually enjoying the same (or a longer) lifespan as non-infected individuals thanks to earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment medications. However, being diagnosed with HIV can still be a life-changing event, and you may have questions about how to handle even the most minor of ailments or even your own personal hygiene. Read on to learn more about the clues your oral health can hold to your HIV status, as well as what you should do to protect your teeth and gums after diagnosis and during your ongoing treatment.
Does HIV target your mouth first?
For those who don't have regular HIV screenings, the first telltale sign of HIV infection may be a persistent oral or throat infection (like thrush) or sensitive and bleeding gums. Because your mouth harbors a great deal of both good and bad bacteria, and because the mucus membranes in your mouth can be easily cut or scraped by even a hard-bristled toothbrush (creating a perfect site for infection), your mouth can often be the first part of your body in which the HIV virus gains a stronghold.
Fortunately, most of the oral infections often caused by HIV are highly treatable with ordinary antibiotics and shouldn't pose any long-term health risks. However, once you've been diagnosed with HIV it is crucially important to maintain (or begin) good oral health habits. A ordinary bacterial infection could spread to other parts of your body if left untreated, and with your immune system already compromised by the HIV virus, you may find yourself fighting a losing battle against the side effects of this disease.
What should you do to maintain or improve your oral health after an HIV diagnosis?
If you haven't been great about making regular dental appointments for checkups and cleanings, you'll want to start now. As part of the high-risk group that includes smokers, diabetics, and the cavity-prone, you may want to schedule quarterly appointments with your dentist to ensure you're on top of any issues that may develop. By promptly treating minor gum infections or inflammation that could breed infection, you'll be able to avoid painful or systemic infections requiring intravenous antibiotics.
In addition to making more regular dental appointments, you'll want to purchase some special equipment to help you take better care of your teeth and gums by reducing your mouth's bacterial load. This will include a water flosser, mechanical or battery-operated soft-bristled toothbrush, and perhaps even a nighttime mouth guard to wear if you're prone to grinding your teeth. Using these devices in place of your regular toothbrush and dental floss will allow you to regularly rid your body of significantly more bacteria, preventing infection and the resulting bone and tissue damage.
Finally, you'll want to take preventive measures on a regular basis to reduce your risk of encountering bacteria or viruses that could do significantly more harm to your health than the strep, staph, and other bacteria constantly present in your body and mouth. This means avoiding unprotected oral sex. Not only can tiny cuts and scrapes in your mouth successfully transmit HIV to your partner, this unprotected contact between decidedly non-sterile mucus membranes could allow you to contract a sexually-transmitted disease that will be much more difficult to treat than it would be for the average person.
You may also want to avoid drinking tap water in certain international locations where the water supply may be of questionable quality, or even declining to eat foods washed in or prepared with potentially contaminated water. By taking these steps you'll be able to ensure your lifespan -- and life -- as an HIV-positive individual is just as long and enjoyable as it would be without this disease.