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Seeing a dentist is one of those ‘grown up’ things that people are either fine with, or is something that creates huge levels of anxiety. This anxiety can be made much worse for someone who has hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
Many people who lived through the 1980’s and 1990’s would remember when everyone was asked to ‘tick a box’ on the patient history form at a dentist if they were living with hep B, hep C or HIV. Ticking ‘yes’ to any of these saw you being moved to the last appointment of the day to ‘protect’ everyone else from contacting a blood borne virus, and in turn saw the community living with hepatitis being significantly stigmatised against.
A lot of advocacy has happened since then. Many dental practices will still ask this same question but it is being asked for a very different reason. It is a form discrimination to ask someone if they have hepatitis and it is entirely up to the individual if they choose to tell.
Living with hepatitis B or hepatitis C may see you being faced with complex liver health problems, which need specialised care. This is no different for your dental health and having hepatitis can also impact on your dental health.
People who are living with hepatitis B and C are more prone to tooth decay, altered taste, oral thrush, reduced saliva production, and difficulty with dentures. This can be caused from having actually having hepatitis, or in some cases from long periods of drug use or being prescribed methadone. So it can be important for the dentist to know about your medical history to get a good understanding of what else might be impacting on the health of your teeth and mouth.
Also some of the medications that may be prescribed during or after a dental procedure may cause harm if you are living with advanced liver disease. This is a serious concern and a dentist would need to know your hepatitis B or C status to make the best decision for you.
It is still a tough decision to disclose your status. Do your research and seek out a dentist that has a good reputation in your community. Asking a few questions of the dentist or the dental practise may make you feel much for comfortable and help reduce your anxiety about disclosing. Everyone deserves a nice pearly white smile and a healthy mouth.
If you have any questions please contact the Hepatitis Queensland InfoLine on 1800 437 222.