Some physicians say yes—because many people who don’t know their HIV status do regularly visit the dentist.
POZ Magazine reports: A staggering 3.6 million Americans say they’re at risk of HIV but haven’t been tested. Researchers are hoping to change this imbalance by introducing HIV tests to an unexpected setting: the dentist office.
The proposal makes a surprising amount of common sense. First off, Americans routinely seek dental care, so if dentists include HIV tests as part of their standard care, potentially millions of people could become aware of their status.
Then there’s the fact that dentists, in many cases, are the first health care professionals to come across visible signs that a person is HIV positive. This is because oral problems are often the first symptom of HIV infection and may signal clinical progression of the disease.
Common oral symptoms of HIV fall into several categories: fungal, viral and bacterial infections, and neoplasms. If a dentist notices any of these symptoms, it’s even more vital that the patient be tested for HIV. Nowadays, that’s easier than ever. HIV can be screened with rapid noninvasive saliva, blood or plasma tests, such as the OraQuick Advance Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody Test. With these simple tests, it’s easier than ever for dentists to screen people for HIV and connect them to care, should they test positive.
“As dental providers, we see our clients at least twice a year, so we’re able to check for cavities, gum disease and other oral diseases,” says Catrise Austin, DDS, a cosmetic and general dentist in New York City. “When I learned that OraSure HIV Rapid testing involved just swabbing the mouth and putting the swab into a developing solution and you get the results in 20 minutes, I thought that it only made sense that dentists start offering this service.”