The Relationship Between Hepatitis and Oral Health

 By: Robert Melkonyan
Hepatitis, more particularly Hepatitis C, has been associated with the decline or worsening of the oral health condition of patients infected with the diseases. As such, these patients experience problems not just pertaining to the health of their teeth and mouth, but also with their quality of life as manifested by their reluctance to interact with other people in society due to their very poor oral health.

Before we further discuss the state of the oral health of people with hepatitis, let us first understand what hepatitis is especially hepatitis C.

Hepatitis is the overall term used to describe an inflammation or infection of the liver. The most common variation of this is the hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is caused by a virus (HCV or Hepatitis C Virus) that infects the liver.

A large number of people may not be aware that they are infected with the hepatitis C virus mainly perhaps because of the lack of symptoms and also due to a mild infection. The problem with this is that it may take years before the symptoms start to show in which case it means the liver is already heavily infected and perhaps even damaged.

There are various causes of hepatitis C, ways in which a person can get the infection. The following are the most common means:

1. Most hepatitis C infections are caused by infected needles. The ones with the most probability of infection are from needles used in administering illegal drugs and also needles used for tattooing.

2. Blood transfusion is also a probable cause but this has become rarer especially since 1992 when tests were finally developed to indicate hepatitis C infection in donor blood.

3. Other probable causes are through sexual intercourse and a pregnant mother with hepatitis C transferring the infection to her unborn child. These last two are less common than from blood transfusions and needles.

Now in relation between hepatitis C and oral health of infected patients, these people are more prone to having tooth decay and other tooth abnormalities. And in a society wherein the aesthetics of any body part is highly regarded, having an unattractive smile due to poor teeth has caused great loss of self-esteem to hepatitis C patients. They are generally uncomfortable with their appearance and thus they prefer not to interact with other people especially with strangers. The other related emotional impact can just be easily surmised.

The most common oral health complaints of these patients are toothache, chronic pain in the mouth especially with the gums and difficulty relaxing due to the pain.

Hepatitis C patients always have higher risks for poor oral health. They are more likely to develop tooth decay, periodontal diseases, sensitive teeth, soreness of the mouth and the gums and bleeding. They also will likely suffer from having what is referred to as salivary gland dysfunction which is a reduction in the volume of the saliva. With less saliva, patients can suffer from halitosis or bad breath and frequent dryness of the mouth. An estimated 80% of hepatitis C patients are expected to incur this salivary gland dysfunction.
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