People infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) have an increased risk of gum disease, according to a new study in the journal BMC Oral Health.
This may be related to their weakened immune systems and a lack of dental care, the study found. HIV attacks the body’s T cells, which are an important part of the defence against bacterial infections.
Gum disease is a bacterial infection, so researchers from the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, suggested that people with later-stage AIDS might be more apt to have gum disease.
The study focused on 120 HIV-infected people who visited a clinic in Western Cape. They ranged in age from 20 to 55. The researchers found that people with lower T-cell counts also had more signs of gum disease. Low T-cell counts reflect more severe HIV infection.
Only 29% of people in the study said they had made at least two dental visits in the last five years. About 19% said that they had never been to the dentist at all.
Other studies have also found that HIV-infected people do not get the dental care they need. One research group found that among people with HIV, having a consistent source of dental care was an important factor. About 65% of people who had established a relationship with a dental office got regular care. Only 12% of people without an established dentist had regular visits. People who had a dentist at the HIV clinic they attended were even more likely to receive regular dental care.