Oral health–related quality of life (OHRQoL) is a multidimensional, perception-based measure of how oral health affects social and physical functioning and self-image. OHRQoL is important for assessing women living with HIV (WLWH) who may have unmet dental needs and experience disparities that impact dental care accessibility.
In 2016, the authors conducted an assessment of OHRQoL among a national sample of 1,526 WLWH in the Women’s Interagency HIV Study using the Oral Health Impact Profile instrument, which assesses the frequency of 14 oral health impact items. OHRQoL was measured using multivariable linear regression with a negative binomial distribution to assess the association between report of a recent unmet dental need and OHRQoL.
“Fair or poor” oral health condition was reported by 37.8% (n = 576) of WLWH. Multivariable linear regression showed that unmet dental needs had the strongest positive association with poor OHRQoL (difference in Oral Health Impact Profile mean, 2.675; P < .001) compared with not having unmet needs. The frequency of dental care utilization was not associated with higher OHRQoL. Older age, fair or poor dental condition, smoking, symptoms of anxiety and loneliness, and poor OHRQoL were also associated with worse OHRQoL.
Self-perceived impact of oral health on social and physical function and self-image, as measured by OHRQoL, may be an easily assessable but underrecognized aspect of OHRQoL, particularly among women aging with HIV.
Dentists should implement OHRQoL assessments in their management of the care of patients with HIV to identify those who do have significant oral health impacts.