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Oral Sex, HIV, and Braces: One Persons Story

Jun 5, 1998

Dear Mr. Sowadsky,

Why is there little or no warning information to the public about the risk of oral sex and braces for transmission of HIV. I was infected in November of 1992 and developed AIDS by May of 1997. I was shocked by the diagnosis because I had never participated in anal sex protected or unprotected. I had gotten braces for the second time. The braces constantly irritated my gums on the molars where the larger bands were placed sometime to the point of bleeding. I slept with a guy after going out with him for about a month. I later learned he lied to me about his status. I did not allow this person to ejaculate in my mouth but he had an extremely heavy discharge of (pardon the crudeness) precum. I would guess that he had a high viral load because he died a year later. I had no idea that I had done anything unsafe because the information at the time was that saliva killed the virus and oral sex was considered safe. My orthodontist never warned me either. Shouldn't the CDC or someone require that orthodontists warn their patients of the danger? The information is certainly better now than it was then but I still don't see any concerted efforts by orthodontisits to inform patients. I now know of another person who contracted the virus the same way. What agency if any is responsible for informing orthodontists of the danger? Thanks for your imput.


with straight teeth and AIDS

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your comments.

If you read my answers about the risks of giving oral sex, I have always stated that there was a risk of infection (although the risk is generally less than that of intercourse). Most of the cases reported through giving oral sex involved ejaculation (exposure to semen), but on rare occasion, infection through pre-cum has also been reported (similar to the situation in your case).

If a person has irritated or bleeding gums (due to braces, gum disease, and other causes) this makes it easier for HIV (and other infections like Hepatitis B) to enter the bloodstream. Therefore, the fact that you were infected this way is really not surprising. The more risky body fluids you are exposed to (including pre-cum and semen) and the more cuts, abrasions, or gum disease in the mouth, the greater the risk of infection. For more information on the risks of oral sex see the posting Can you get HIV through oral sex?.

If you want to educate dentists and orthodontists about oral sex and HIV (by telling them your story), let me refer you to the following resources:

American Dental Association

211 East Chicago Avenue

Chicago IL 60611


American Association of Orthodontists

401 North Lindbergh Boulevard

St. Louis, MO 63141-7816


If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to e-mail me at "" or call me at (Nationwide). I'm glad to help!

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