Oral (mouth) problems are very common in people living with HIV (HIV+).
Anywhere from a quarter to a half of all HIV+ people will have oral problems
that arise because of their weakened immune systems. This puts HIV+ people at greater risk for gum problems
(gingivitis or periodontal disease), mouth infections, and sores.
Oral problems can cause discomfort and embarrassment and affect how you feel
about yourself. Oral problems can also lead to trouble with eating and
speaking. If mouth pain or tenderness makes it difficult to chew and swallow,
or if you can not taste as well as you used to, you may not eat the food you
need to stay well. It is important to see your dentist or health care provider
as soon as possible if you notice any changes in your mouth.
||What and Where
|Painful red sores that
might have a yellow-gray film on top. Usually on the underside of the tongue or
the inside of the cheeks and lips.
||Mild cases --
Over-the-counter cream or prescription mouthwash that contains steroids.
More severe cases -- steroids in a pill form, or, in rare cases,
(cold sores) are caused by viral infection
|One or more small
blisters or ulcers on the lips or on the roof of the mouth and/or
(e.g., acyclovir) in pill form are prescribed and can reduce healing time.
Over-the-counter medicine (Abreva) can also reduce healing time.
leukoplakia (OHL) is caused by
the Epstein-Barr virus
||White patches that do
not wipe away; sometimes very thick and "hair-like." Usually appear on the side
of the tongue.
||OHL is not harmful and
usually goes away without treatment. More severe cases can be treated with
antiviral medication (e.g., acyclovir). Topical treatments are also available.
Stopping smoking and not drinking alcohol can help.
(thrush) is a fungal (yeast) infection
||White or yellowish
patches inside the mouth, throat and on the tongue. If wiped away, there will
be redness or bleeding underneath.
||Mild cases -- prescription antifungal lozenge or mouthwash.
More severe cases -- prescription antifungal pills.
Cheilitis is caused by a fungal
infection or malnutrition (too little vitamin B2, zinc, or iron)
||Cracks on the corners
of the mouth.
applied directly to the site (if fungal); improved diet or vitamin and mineral
supplements (If malnutrition).
Warts are caused by the human
papilloma virus (HPV)
||Small, white, gray, or
pinkish rough bumps that look like cauliflower. They can appear inside the lips
and on other parts of the mouth.
||Inside the mouth -- a
health care provider can remove them surgically or use "cryosurgery" -- a way of
freezing them off.
On the lips -- a prescription cream that will wear away the wart.
Warts can return after treatment.
(KS) is a cancer associated with
HIV and caused by a virus (human herpes virus 8)
||Red or purple lesions
that can be raised or flat. KS usually occurs on the roof of the mouth but can
be found anywhere in the mouth.
freezing, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
disease is an infection of the
gums and supporting bone
||Red gums that bleed
easily and bad breath.
||Regular dental visits
and good oral hygiene both prevent and treat periodontal disease.
Xerostomia (dry mouth) can be caused by HIV, HIV drugs, or
||Lack of saliva (spit);
trouble chewing and swallowing; dry, sticky, or burning mouth; and cracked or
chapped lips. If untreated, dry mouth can lead to tooth decay.
- Artificial saliva
- Sipping water or sugarless
- Chewing sugarless gum
- Sucking sugarless hard candy
- Avoiding tobacco
- Avoiding alcohol