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HIV Infection Is a Risk Factor for Periodontal Disease
December 11, 2013

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - People infected with HIV have an increased risk of gum disease, a new study finds.

This may be related to their weakened immune systems and a lack of dental care, the study found. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the body's T cells. These cells are an important part of the defense against bacterial infections.

Gum disease is a bacterial infection. So researchers from 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 2 dental visits in the last 5 years. About 19% said they had never been to the dentist at all.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 60% of American adults visit the dentist at least once a year.

Other studies also have 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.

The South African study appears in the December issue of the journal BMC Oral Health.

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