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Dental care

telling doctors and dentists

Good dental health is an important part of good overall health for everybody, particularly for people with HIV.

It's even more important if you are HIV positive and pregnant, using drugs, or taking drug substitution therapy.

Side-effects of some anti-HIV treatment can cause problems in the mouth, and you may be at higher risk of some oral health problems if you have a low CD4 count.

Is dental care available from the NHS?

NHS dental services can provide treatment to protect and maintain your dental and oral health. However, cosmetic services are not available from the NHS.

Unlike some other NHS services, there are usually charges for dental services. However some people, including those on certain benefits, are exempt from these charges.

In theory, everyone who is eligible for NHS treatment and care should be able to access NHS dentistry. But it can be difficult to find a dentist who accepts NHS patients. To find an NHS dentist near you try visiting the NHS dentist finder.

Should I tell my dentist I have HIV?

When you go to the dentist, you may be asked to provide a medical history and this may include a question about having HIV. The dentist only really needs to know this so they can check for signs of HIV-related problems in the mouth.

Under the Equality Act 2010, it’s illegal for a dentist to refuse to treat you because you have HIV (this applies both to NHS and private dentists).

Dentists often think that they need to take extra care when they have a patient with HIV. They may be more careful about cleaning and sterilising equipment, wanting to prevent HIV being passed on. But standard infection control procedures are designed to prevent transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases.

According to the Department of Health and the British Dental Association:

  • The same procedures should be used for all patients
  • It’s unethical as well as unlawful to refuse dental care to people with HIV
  • It’s also illogical – lots of people have HIV without knowing it, so dentists treat people who have HIV anyway, and need to take the right precautions all the time.

Dentists sometimes say that people with HIV have to take the last appointment of the day, to allow for extra sterilisation. So far, nobody has taken a dentist to court for this, but this is probably illegal under the Equality Act 2010, which covers even indirect discrimination.

If you've had problems with an NHS dentist, you can make a complaint, as with any NHS service. The British Dental Health Foundation can explain how to make a complaint – call their helpline on 0845 063 1188.

Just like other healthcare workers, dentists and their staff are obliged to maintain strict standards of confidentiality.



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