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Sjögren’s Syndrome: An Underrecognized Condition with Oral Health Effects
June 13th, 2013 by Dr. Watson

Throughout the course of life, some patients will find that they temporarily experience an unusually dry mouth, depending on constantly changing external circumstances. These circumstances can include receiving radiation therapy as part of medical treatment, taking prescribed medications for a temporary period of time, or going through periods of growth and development that require an increased amount of fluid intake in the diet.

 

Unlike temporary dry mouth, Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder which affects the salivary, as well as other glands such as the tear glands, that secrete beneficial fluids. Sjögren’s syndrome is a lifelong disorder, and it is important for those affected to seek regular dental care. If you are a patient with this disorder you can work with your dental team, as well as other health care providers, to attain and maintain optimum oral health.

 

Sjögren’s syndrome and Oral Health

Those with Sjögren’s syndrome are at an increased risk for dental decay, and should regularly discuss preventative options with their dental hygienist or dentist. Preventive measures that are offered through the dental health care team will help each patient with this disorder to maintain a set of strong, healthy, and natural teeth.

Preventive Measures: Sealants, Fluoride, and Other Products

The placement of other preventative measures, like sealants on the crowns of molars and pre-molars (the teeth furthest back in the mouth), can help to reduce the risk of decay that comes with this disorder. Additionally, fluoride treatments, in the form of trays or varnish (painted-on) applications, are frequently provided to keep the enamel of the teeth strong. The increased risk for dental caries (cavities) is due to the fact that saliva, which is sparse in patients with Sjögren’s syndrome, plays a beneficial role in re-mineralizing (strengthening) areas of the enamel (the strongest, outermost layer of the teeth) which is due to its mineral content. Enamel also becomes eroded when acidic foods and beverages are consumed throughout the day, and saliva acts as a buffer, helping to keep the pH of the oral cavity at a neutral level.

 

Dental hygienists can also recommended specific products and lifestyle changes that will help to reduce the risk of decay in the mouth, such as sugar-free gum containing substances like xylitol. Certain sugar-free gums have been proven to help stimulate salivary production, and can act as a replacement for other types of chewing gum, as well as hard candies, that may already be part of the diet.

 

Additional Recommendations for Patients with Sjögren’s syndrome

In addition to preventive dental procedures, patients with Sjögren’s syndrome can maintain adequate levels of saliva in the oral cavity by using several over-the-counter products. Mouth rinses, like Biotene (a highly established brand), are formulated especially to stimulate salivary flow and to lubricate the oral cavity for longer periods of time. In addition, many tap water (depending on your specific county of residence) sources contain small amounts of fluoride, the ion responsible for keeping enamel strong. There are thousands of products that help patients with dry mouth, and they are constantly being added to drug stores, supermarkets, and other retailers.

 

If you have Sjögren’s syndrome, your dental office is an invaluable wealth of knowledge, and each member of the oral health care team can help you to maintain a set of beautiful, functional teeth throughout your life.

 

For more information about Sjögren’s syndrome, contact Dr. Watson, your Jackson, MS dentist at Jackson Smiles today.