Oral lesions are commonly associated with the disease

Across the globe, the presence of HIV is widespread. At the end of 2004, the United Nations HIV/AIDS program estimated that 2.5 million children under the age of 15 were affected worldwide. Additionally, approximately 500,000 children in that same age group died from disease-related cases in that year alone. In the United States, 90 percent of infected children are infected by the disease through birth.

The effects of the disease on children differ greatly from those in adults, according to a report/study that appears in the July/August 2006 issue of General Dentistry, the AGD's clinical, peer-reviewed journal. Type, severity and progression are all factors that differ, depending on the age at which one contracts the disease.

"Children do not demonstrate HIV-specific symptoms as adults do," says Kishore Shetty, DDS, lead author of the study. "Their bodies will most likely display an infection or weakness instead of common HIV signs."

The place where this most commonly occurs is in the mouth. There are many variations of the way lesions appear, but a few common types are: candidiasis, or "thrush," a fungal yeast infection; salivary gland enlargement; herpes simplex virus; inflammation of the gingiva; and canker sores.

"Orofacial manifestations of HIV are common in pediatric HIV infection," Shetty adds. "It is important to be aware of these signs, as they may serve as both a marker of infection and predictor of HIV progressing to AIDS."

What to do:

  • Visit your general dentist. They handle the majority of dental emergencies.

  • If you fear that your child or teen might be at risk, have them tested as soon as possible. The sooner a child is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin.

  • Communicate with your dentist if the child has HIV. It will alert them to look closely for signs of disease, plus allow them to provide the best possible treatment.

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The Academy of General Dentistry is a non-profit organization of more than 35,000 general dentists dedicated to staying up-to-date in the profession through continuing education. A general dentist is the primary care provider for patients of all ages and is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of services related to patient's oral health needs. Learn more about AGD member dentists or find more information on dental health topics at www.agd.org/consumer.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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