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PLoS One. 2019 Oct 16;14(10):e0222568. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222568. eCollection 2019.

The burden of oral conditions among adolescents living with HIV at a clinic in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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School of Oral Health Sciences, Department of Community Dentistry, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.



There are inconsistent reports on the prevalence of oral conditions and their associated factors among adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV). The current inconsistencies may hinder the development of clear guidelines on the prevention and treatment of oral conditions among ALHIV. This study provides an update on oral conditions and their associated factors in a cohort of South African ALHIV and receiving routine HIV treatment services at a Johannesburg HIV wellness clinic.


Decayed Teeth (DT), Decayed Missing and Filled Teeth (DMFT) and Oral HIV/AIDS Research Alliance case definitions were used for caries examination and reporting of the Oral Mucosal Lesions (OML) respectively. Data analyses were stratified by the study main outcomes; chi-squared tests were performed to determine the associations; and multiple logistic regressions were also used to identify associated factors after adjusting for other exposure variables. In addition to fitting logistic regressions, we explored the data for potential confounders and effect modifiers.


A total of 407 ALHIV were assessed, of which 51.0% were females. The mean age of the ALHIV was 14.75 years (SD 2.43) while the median age of their parents was 43 years (IQR 37-48 years). Regardless of sex, age group and other socio-demographic characteristics, participants had high count of dental caries (DMFT>0). The overall prevalence of dental caries was 56.76% (n = 231) with mean DT score of 2.0 (SD 2.48) and mean DMFT score of 2.65 (SD 3.01). Dental caries prevalence (DT>0) was significantly associated with the HIV clinical markers. HIV RNA viral loads more than 1000 copies/ml and CD4 cell counts less than 200 count cells/mm3, increased the likelihood of having dental decay among ALHIV (p<0.05). ALHIV at WHO staging III, IV had higher caries prevalence ranging from 70% to 75% (p<0.05). The prevalence of dental caries was directly related to the presence of oral mucosal lesions (p<0.05). The prevalence of OML was 22%, with linear gingival erythema (13.8%) accounting for most of the OML. Multiple logistic regression modelling suggested that dental caries experience (DMFT>0), age category 13-15 years, WHO staging of IV and viral load of more than 1000 copies/ml significantly predicted the outcome of oral lesions as assessed using the OHARA case definitions (p<0.05). The odds of developing dental caries was also 1.5 times more among ALHIV who brush their teeth less frequently and those who reported more frequent eating of sugar sweetened diets (p<0.05).


There is high prevalence of dental caries and OML among ALHIV in Johannesburg. The reported prevalence was associated with high HIV RNA viral loads, shorter duration on antiretroviral treatment and high WHO staging of HIV disease on crude analysis. Additionally, caries experience contributed to the prevalence of OML. Our study acknowledges the protective effect of HIV treatment and positive oral health practices on the presence of oral conditions among ALHIV in Johannesburg.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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