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+TALK: PETER BONIFATTO, DMD

The following is a transcript of the conversation between Karl Schmid and our favorite dentist, Peter Bonifatto, DMD.

KARL

HIV and going to the dentist, up next.

Hello there, welcome to +Talk on +Life where we’re all about turning positive into a plus. Today, we’re gonna talk about dental health and HIV. It’s very important. And joining me to do that is my favorite dentist in the world. Dr. Pete. Peter Bonifatto, good to see you, sir.

PETER

Good to see you. How you been Karl?

KARL

I’ve been okay, I’ve been okay. Lovely festive background there. I appreciate that. It’s your second time joining us. We’ve had a good talk about this before but I thought it’s important to bring it up again especially when we look at things like the American Dental Association recommends that dental health be part of HIV/AIDS treatment. I don’t think a lot of people think HIV/AIDS, dentist. Why did they recommend this?

PETER

Well, dental health is health, right? So the mouth is connected to the body. So if we take care of our mouth, the rest of our body is also healthy. There’s a lot of connections between the mouth and the heart and diabetes and other systemic diseases. So part of health for everyone, not only HIV positive people is a healthy mouth.

KARL

You and I have talked about myths and misconceptions about HIV. There’s still a lot of people out there who believe it or not think that if you kiss somebody who’s HIV positive you can get HIV. But if there’s a small cut in your mouth or something like that, or your gums happen to bleed. Can you sort of give some clarification on that?

PETER

HIV is not transferred through saliva. You know, you would have to have an open sore and the HIV positive person would have to have an open sore. And those two fluids would have to get together perfectly. So it’s very unlikely that anyone kissing would ever contract or transmit HIV. It’s a very common misconception and it’s just not true.

KARL

Should someone who’s living with HIV make it a point to visit the dentist more regularly throughout the year then ’cause since you mentioned that everything is connected?

PETER

Start out with going every six months. You know, if your dentist then determines that you need to go more often, you know, for cleanings, checkups, things like that then yes. But typically no. You know, every six months is usually okay as long as you don’t have any gum disease or any other dental treatment that needs to be.

KARL

Yeah, and I bet there’s still, a lot of people thought that even avoid going to the dentist once a year, let alone every six months. What are some of the infections that regular dental care, good dental hygiene can help keep away?

PETER

So the most common problem is just gum disease and that’s among everyone not only HIV patients. Going in for regular cleanings will prevent periodontal disease which is a loss of bone that holds the teeth in. There’s also infections, you know, since HIV does attack the immune system you’re more susceptible to opportunistic viral and fungal infections like thrush, candidiasis, things like oral hairy leukoplakia, but more commonly herpes, cankers sores, things like that. So going to the dentist will help prevent those from happening and also if they’re happening when you go into the dentist, they may be able to give you some remedies or treatments for that.

KARL

So what do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about dental care for people who are HIV positive, other than the kissing one that we talked about?

PETER

Right, there’s a kissing one. That’s a big misconception. There’s been misconceptions about people contracting HIV in the dental office, which is a wives tale at best. There’s really some dentists even, antiquated dentists, older dentists believe that you need to double glove to see HIV patients and all of these other precautions and it’s just not true. We’re wearing our scrub, we’re wearing a jacket, we’re wearing a mask, we’re wearing goggles. We’re wearing all the protective gear and we don’t treat HIV patients any different than anyone else. So, there’s a lot of misconceptions and there’s a lot of old school dentists out there who are just not practicing the way that is proper.

KARL

Yeah. Well, you kind of answered my next question there, which was, what do you guys do at your dental practice to ensure that someone who does come in HIV positive doesn’t feel stigmatized because that’s often one of the biggest hurdles is not even sitting in the dentist chair. It’s actually just walking into the office because they’re worried that, you know, okay, I’ve got to disclose on the form that I’m HIV positive, and then we worry, how are they gonna treat me? What are some of the practices that you guys put in place to make sure that people like me shouldn’t feel intimidated to come into the dentist?

PETER

Well, if we want you to come in every six months and come in regularly we need to provide an environment that is not stigmatizing you know, and needs to be a welcoming and non-judgemental environment. So there’s no, we don’t treat HIV positive patients any differently than anyone else. People with hep C, people with any medical condition. Would we treat anyone with heart high blood pressure differently? No. So if there is someone who is HIV positive we try not to have anyone who may be spreading some kind of a disease to them. So we’d like to keep the other operatory empty next to them, but that’s for the safety of the HIV positive patient. That’s not for the other way around.

KARL

So all good steps are taken. So in a nutshell, it’s important to check out the dentist and get your mouth checked out every six months.

PETER

Absolutely. Every six months and there’s things you can do at home as well. You know, make sure you’re brushing twice a day, flossing, you know, decreasing your alcohol, tobacco, drug use, things like that, that will help your oral health as well as your overall health.

KARL

Doctor, thank you so much. It’s always a pleasure to see you and even more so with your festive Christmas lights. Dr. Peter Bonifatto, thank you very much. That is gonna do it for this episode of +Talk. If you want more information on what we’ve talked about today, just head to the website, pluslifemedia.com. And remember you can follow us on social media as well. We are @pluslifemedia. We’ll put Peter’s information up on the website as well so if you’ve got questions slide into his DMS on the Instagram. I’m sure he’ll be happy to answer them. Until next time, stay safe, take care of each other. We’ll see you soon.

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