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Many systemic diseases manifest in the mouth and HIV/AIDS is not an exception. Identifying these oral signs are useful because in some cases, they are the first manifestations of the disease. Your dentist is especially trained to identify such lesions. In fact, I have on several occasions been the first to diagnose HIV infection in patients. Early detection allows us to implement prompt therapy. A regular dental visit is advised and can be life-saving.


  • Oral Candidiasis – It appears as creamy white patches made of fungus that can occur anywhere in the mouth. It results in taste disturbances, discomfort when taking spicy foods and sometimes, a general burning sensation of the mouth. Cracks at the corners of the mouth can also be caused by this fungus and these can be very painful.
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Support Care Canc (2006) 14: 44–51

  • Gum Disease– Microorganisms flourish in the absence of a reduced immune system. The microbes destroy the gum tissues and bone and in the process, produce substances that cause bad breath. The gums become painful and bleed easily and the teeth start to loosen.
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Journal of Oral Pathology and Medicine 38(6):481-8 · August 2009

  • Dry Mouth–  This can be caused by Diabetes, some medications, alcohol, smoking, and HIV infection. Dry mouth is not only very unpleasant to the individual suffering from it but it can also lead to a variety of infections of the mouth.

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Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, and Endodontology 105(3):e73-5 · April 2008

  • Recurrent Herpes– Many people get these ‘cold sores’ either from stress, fever, or sun-exposure and it usually goes away in about 7-10 days. HIV infected individuals have more extensive disease that occurs much more frequently and is debilitating.
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  • Oral Melanosis: A new dark pigmentation on your tongue or the inside of your cheeks without any known cause can be a sign of HIV infection. Note that many people have intraoral pigmentations that are completely normal. Typically, an unexplained pigmentation in a high-risk individual is what will make me suspect HIV/AIDS.

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  Ann Trop Med Public Health 2013;6:664-7

Dr Randy Chance, BSc. Med. Sci, BDS

Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital & Official Doctor at Bisa

Accra- Ghana

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