Oral care: for patients with hepatitis C
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Follow these simple steps to help keep your teeth and gums healthy. Early stages of tooth decay may also be reversed.
Caution: products containing fluoride (such as gels and fluoride rinses) should not be swallowed and must be kept out of reach of children.
Healthy gums are pink, firm and don’t bleed when brushed.
Bacteria irritates gums and cause gum infections if plaque is not cleaned from teeth and gums daily. Irritated gums may look red, swollen and bleed. Other signs include receding gums, loose teeth and persistent bad taste or bad breath.
Gently brush teeth and gums in the morning and before bed at night to keep gums healthy.
People on treatment for hepatitis C (pegylated interferon and ribavirin) may have lower resistance to gum infection.
To help prevent gum infection:
If your gums are sore, bleed excessively or have a bad odour, see a dentist urgently. If you have mouth ulcers, sores, infections or pain in your teeth or gums, seek dental advice.
Saliva lubricates the mouth and assists speech, taste and chewing. Saliva washes teeth, providing minerals for repair. Saliva also helps prevent bacteria, viruses and fungi from causing infections, tooth decay and gum disease.
Many people with hepatitis C experience dry mouth. Medications such as antidepressants and methadone can make your mouth dry. To help with dry mouth, try:
Thrush (candidiasis) may appear as white spots or a film inside the mouth. To treat thrush, try:
If your thrush persists or your mouth splits and bleeds, see your dentist.
Dentures can aggravate thrush. Try soaking your dentures for 30 minutes in diluted Milton’s solution. If your thrush doesn’t improve or is severe, see your dentist.
Your teeth may be sensitive to hot and cold or sweet food and drinks. Teeth can become sensitive if enamel is lost from the surface of the tooth or if the root surface is exposed.
Sensitivity can be caused by:
Desensitising toothpaste or fluoride gel applied to the necks of your teeth may improve sensitivity. If sensitivity does not improve or is severe, consult your dentist.
Ulcers can occur anywhere in the mouth and may be painful. Viruses, hot foods and some medications may cause ulcers. If ulcers do not heal within two weeks, see your dentist for advice.
Note: any unusual lumps, swellings or persistent mouth ulcers should be reported to your dentist.
Rinse your dentures after meals. Brush daily with a soft brush and mild soap. Don’t use toothpaste – it’s abrasive and may cause wear to your denture.
Place your dentures in cold water at night and when they are not in your mouth. If your dentures are stained, a small amount of vinegar or bleach may be added to the water. Rinse with water before wearing.
Dentures should fit well to maintain the health of your mouth. It may help to add a small amount of denture adhesive (available from your chemist) to the fitting surface of the denture.