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Guide for People With HIV Infection

Maintaining Good Dental Health

Mouth problems are common in HIV infection. However, they are usually treatable and often, preventable. Prevention and early intervention are necessary. This care sheet has been developed as a guideline to help you maintain a healthy mouth.

Professional Care:

Regular (every 3 - 6 month) professional scaling and polishing is recommended. This can be done by a dental hygienist in your own dentist's office.

Referral to providers who accept private insurance is available through the Tennessee Dental Association at (615) 383-8962. Dental care is also provided at Lentz Health Department, Dental Clinic at (6150 340-5601. If you live outside the Nashville area, please call the State AIDS Hotline at 1-800-525-2437.

Remember, nothing takes the place of regular professional care.

Gum disease (gingivitis) is common in HIV infection and needs to be treated immediately to avoid tooth and bone loss.

If you gums bleed when you brush, or are red and swollen, see a dentist immediately.

Home Care:

  • Check your mouth regularly (each time you brush) and get regular check-ups.

  • Brush daily, especially after meals and before bed. Use a soft bristle brush (hard bristles can damage gums and teeth). You can also use an automatic toothbrush. Water Piks are also good to stimulate circulation.

  • Floss between teeth before brushing at least once a day, more often if necessary.

  • Denture wearers should brush gently all gum areas and hard palate (roof of mouth) to stimulate circulation. Dentures should be cleaned daily in one of the commercial products available or with a baking soda & water paste.


  1. Alcohol.

  2. Tobacco in any form.

  3. Try to avoid excessive sweets: however, if you eat them at the end of a meal, the increased salivation helps to remove them faster. Certain medications, such as Nystatin, leave high concentrations of sugar on the teeth.

Look For and notify your health care provider promptly if you discover any of the below:

  1. Red patches, especially in the hard palate (roof of mouth).
  2. White fluffy patches that can be scraped off, sometimes leaving a sore red area underneath. This may be thrush.

  3. Any ulcerated (open) area, including lips, even if painless.
  4. White patches on the side of tongue that cannot be scraped off.
  5. Sore throat.

  6. Difficulty or pain with swallowing.

  7. Excessive hiccoughing.

Comfort Measures for Mouth Irritation

  • You can use a warm salt water solution (1/8 tsp. to 1/2 glass - 5 to 6 oz. - of warm water) to rinse your mouth. It will relieve some of the discomfort.

  • Avoid spicy, salty, or acidic foods.

  • Applesauce, cold liquids, gelatins, popsicles, or sherbet are soothing.

This brochure was provided by the Tennessee Department of Health Support Services. For AIDS information in Tennessee call 1-800-525-AIDS.

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