Hepatitis C is a potentially deadly virus that cause liver infection, and it is thought that it may be eradicated within the next 10 years, with the cure rate now close to 100%. It is thought there are 150 million people with Hepatitis C around the world, with the majority developing chronic liver infection which may lead to liver failure.
There is a vaccination for Hepatitis A and B, but NOT for Hepatitis C.
The Federal Government has focused on funding treatments, with a rollout of a powerful antiviral medication, Zepatier, which is provided on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Access is available for people across the entire disease spectrum, including those with no significant liver damage all the way through to those with major liver damage, with 30 000 Australian being treated for the disease last year. Many countries are restricting treatments to those who have advanced liver disease because of the very high cost of these treatments.
It is still important to be mindful of prevention strategies that have been in placed for the last two decades, even with the high cure rates.
what is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is an infection caused by a virus that attacks the liver and leads to inflammation. It spreads easily, and requires diagnosis by a doctor following lab tests.
The virus is spread by contact with contaminated blood, for example, by sharing needles or from unsterile tattoo equipment, and can be spread from a mother to baby.
Most people have no symptom, but in those that do, they may have fatigue; stomach pain, bleeding, fluid or nausea; fever; loss of appetite; swollen blood vessels in the skin or eyes; yellow skin; depression and weight loss.
DENTAL CARE FOR THOSE WITH HEPATITIS C OR UNDERGOING TREATMENT
KEEP YOUR TEETH AND GUMS HEALTHY
* To keep your teeth and gums healthy, gently but thoroughly brush your teeth, twice a day, in the morning and at night last thing before going to sleep, for at least 2 minutes each time. Ideally use fluoride toothpaste, which can reverse early stages of tooth decay. Keep the fluoride toothpaste out of reach of children. Use a soft toothbrush, or preferably a very good electric toothbrush.
* Gently clean in between your teeth with dental floss or an interdental brush. Your dentist and dental hygienist can show you how to do this, for a thorough clean.
* Limit how often sugary foods and drinks are consumed.
* Fluoride gels are available to apply to the teeth, to try to protect against tooth decay.
* Tooth Mousse Plus helps prevent rapid enamel loss and keeps the mouth from feeling too dry. It also reverses early decay, and neutralises the acidic environment in the mouth. Your dentist can supply this and advise how to use it.
* Mouth ulcers anywhere in the mouth are common. If they persist for more than 2 weeks, see your dentist for advice. Warm salt water rinses are helpful, a glass of warm water with a teaspoon of salt, to soothe and calm the irritated gum or tissues.
* See the dentist each 3 months for regular checks and professional cleans.
Healthy gums are pink, firm and don't bleed.
Bacteria builds up around the teeth and gums if they are not cleaned well, and irritates the gums and causes infections.
Irritated gums appear swollen, red and bleed easily. Other signs are receding gums, bad breath and loose teeth.
To keep the gums healthy, brush the teeth thoroughly and gently in the morning and before bed time, for 2 minutes with a very soft toothbrush, or preferably a good electric toothbrush.
Angle the toothbrush towards the gum line and use a gentle circular motion, and brush each surface of the tooth, to remove the plaque bacteria. Any whitish or yellowish build up between the teeth or around the gum is bacteria that should be removed, so it does not irritate the gums or cause tooth decay.
Floss gently ensuring that the floss is dragged along the surfaces of the teeth in the gaps between the teeth. The plaque bacteria likes to stick against the edges of the teeth, where the toothbrush can not reach.
Interdental brushes can be used for spaces or gaps in between the teeth.
With Hepatitis treatment, a patient may have less resistance to gum infections.
Regular dental visits for professional scaling and cleaning removes the hardened bacteria from around the teeth and under the gums, which irritates the gums.
Smoking may make gum disease worse because it stops good blood supply to the gums, and dries them out. Think about quitting if you can.
Seek dental advice urgently if your gums are bleeding, painful, or if you have persistent mouth ulcers, persistent bad breath, or any sign of infection in your mouth.
Being well hydrated is important when undergoing treatment for Hepatitis C. Saliva helps to keep the mouth lubricated and washes over the teeth, providing minerals to the tooth to repair early areas of decay, as well preventing bacteria, viruses and fungi from causing infections and gum disease. It also assists with chewing, taste and speech.
A lot of people with Hepatitis C have an issue with dryness of the mouth, and using other medications, such as antidepressants may cause much less saliva to be present in the mouth. To help with dry mouth try:
> frequently sipping mainly water only
> eating a very healthy diet with unprocessed foods
Thrush may appear as white thick spots inside of the mouth
> eat natural sugar free yoghurt daily and having a very healthy diet
> using Nilstat/Mycostatin oral drops - ask your dentist, doctor or pharmacist for advice
If it persists or your mouth splits and bleeds, see your dentist.
Dentures can allow thrush to thrive. Try soaking your dentures for 30 minutes in diluted Milton’s solution, but not if it has metal clips because they will rust. If your thrush doesn’t improve or is severe, see your dentist. Very carefully brush your dentist each time that you brush your teeth. Make sure there is no staining, or build up. Your dentist can professionally clean it for you. Make sure that you have a denture that fits well.
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:
> dry mouth
> poor tooth brushing technique
> acidic foods and drinks such as lemons, wine, vinegar or soft drinks
> frequent vomiting or gastric reflux
> grinding teeth – often occurring during sleep. Your dentist may recommend and provide a night splint to protect teeth from wearing.
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.