Would You Get Tested for HIV at the Dentist?

Original caption: Photo shows a dentist working on a patient in the dentist's office. Models: C.H. Cohen, D.D.S. and Emil Romano, the patient. Ca. 1940s-1950s. --- Image by ? Bettmann/CORBIS
Photo: Philip Gendreau/? Corbis. All Rights Reserved.

For all the global conversations and awareness-raising about HIV, there are still many, many people who do not get tested for the disease who should. One way to boost the rates of testing is to open up new “fronts” for testing — that is, to not rely so heavily on medical offices and sexual-health clinics, as important as those settings may be. And a new study out of Australia suggests dentists’ offices, where someone is already poking around in your mouth anyway, could be a good venue for testing.

And people — in Australia, at least — would be into it, the Canberra Times reports:

A study to be released at the Sydney University HIV Testing Symposium on Wednesday reveals widespread support for dentists being able to offer HIV testing to patients. 

Of the 82 per cent of patients who said they would be prepared to be HIV tested at a dentist’s office, almost three-quarters would opt for a saliva swab, 15 per cent preferred a pinprick test and 8 per cent preferred a traditional blood test, according to the study of more than 500 dental patients in Sydney. 

Rapid-result saliva swabs for HIV testing have been around for a while, so there aren’t any technological hurdles. Yet right now, this isn’t common practice anywhere in the world, and obviously it will work a lot better in countries where people routinely go to the dentist (which, in the U.S., not so much).

In any case, more HIV testing is certainly a good thing, and there don’t seem to be any great reasons HIV tests couldn’t become a routine part of dental checkups in the future.