Dental hygiene is a prerequisite for everyone, but children living with HIV should particularly be given special care, as they are more prone to dental diseases.
According to Dr. Paul Musherure, a USA-based Ugandan dental surgeon, HIV/AIDS compromises the children's immunity, resulting in mouth lesions (injuries, especially involving a cut or break in the skin).
The lesions include herpes zoster scarring, oral ulcers and candidiasis. Others are angular chelitis (an inflammation at the corner of the mouth), conventional gingivitis (red bands around the neck of the teeth) and abscesses of the soft tissues.
Children with HIV get opportunistic infections and receive most of their medications in syrup form, but sometimes the syrups can wreck havoc on the teeth, resulting in decay.
However, most dental problems are managed when the child is started on anti-retroviral therapy, Musherure says.
Why the free treatment?
In 2003, Dr. John Sexton of Colorado, USA, together with Musherure and a few friends visited Uganda in search of a place where they could provide free dental care for children living with HIV/AIDS. "The camp has been running annually for nine years at Mildmay and over 5,000 children have benefited," Musherure says.
He was in the country recently for the annual camp, together with a team of experts comprising; paediatric dentists, a dentist, dental students, dental assistants, dental technicians, nurses and sterilisation off icers.
The team also carried out free cervical cancer screening, breast cancer examination, medical male circumcision, HIV counselling and testing as well as sexual reproductive healthcare.
The volunteers also educated the parents of children living with HIV on how to maintain dental hygiene.
Together with the University of Texas Dental Branch in Houston and A-DEC Dental Manufactures, the US team has, over the nine years, donated 60 dental chairs to different government as well as non-profit health facilities countrywide," Musherure adds.