Say 'Ah!': Dental offices providing HIV testing

A routine dental cleaning now may come with an unexpected option: an HIV test.

Some dental locations, especially in New York City, are offering HIV screenings to patients through a fast and inexpensive oral test.

Dental clinics have screened hundreds of patients with the OraQuick Advance HIV test, a technique that uses a swab of fluid around the gum. Results can be available 20 minutes later, during the same cleaning appointment. No blood-work, no two-week wait for the lab report.

Health care professionals who support dental HIV testing note that more than 1 million Americans are living with HIV, but about one-fifth of them do not know they are infected. And many Americans at risk for HIV visit a dentist more often than they do a physician.

"The dental setting is a very natural setting for this to be done,'' says Dr. Stephen Abel, an associate dean at Florida's Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine. "Young people are using the dental office more regularly than a doctor's office.''