According to the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation, “Sjögren’s is a chronic autoimmune disease in which people’s white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands.” That means dry eyes and a dry mouth – ouch! Other systemic affects may include the gastrointestinal system starting in the mouth, the central nervous system, liver, lungs, pancreas and the brain. People may feel severely fatigued and tired. The joints may hurt and are at a higher risk of lymphoma.
Recently, you may have heard tennis sensation Venus Williams open up about her battle with Sjögren’s, as she vowed “I won’t let it beat me.”
Do realize that Sjögren’s Syndrome presents dire circumstances for your mouth.
People that have this disease know what I am talking about. A family member, a friend, a colleague you know, may have been afflicted with dry mouth or dry eyes. As many as 1 – 4 million Americans are living with this disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. The syndrome is named after Swedish opthamologist, Dr. Henrik Sjogren, who first described it in the late 1800’s. Nine out of ten patients affected with Sjögren’s Syndrome are female.
Sjögren’s Syndrome Effects on the Mouth (dental):
Sjögren’s may affect quality of life related to eating foods. Saliva lubricates the mouth to assist in chewing and digesting food. Because the salivary glands either reduce or stop producing saliva, the lubrication is minimal and food feels like sandpaper. The gums tissues become abraded and even cut with dry foods. The mouth loses the protective chemical found in healthy saliva.
The effects that Sjögren’s has on the mouth may include:
• Severe cavities
• Xerostomis – dry mouth
• Fractured teeth
• Infected teeth
• Missing teeth
• Difficulty chewing
• Difficulty swallowing
• Difficulty digesting food
• Altered taste
• Missing teeth
• Increased risk for other diseases such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes and cancer
Prevention of oral diseases:
People that are suffering from Sjögren’s can employ certain habits that prevent oral diseases such as cavities, gum infections, and missing teeth.
Top 10 ways to prevent oral disease in Sjögren’s Syndrome Patients:
1. Realize that it only takes 7 minutes (probably faster in Sjögren’s patients) to develop oral diseases such as cavites and periodontal disease (gum disease).
2. Follow the 7-Minute Window and make it a habit.
3. Use an alcohol-free fluoride rinse 5x a day to protect your teeth.
4. Rinse with water immediately after eating or drinking anything other than water (drinking water alone does not prevent disease in the mouth).
5. Never, ever rinse your mouth with any fluids containing sugar or acids.
6. Brush the entire mouth (not only your teeth) to rid of debris and acids.
7. Denture wearers – use only zinc-free denture adhesives or….
8. Use dental implants to fix your missing teeth.
9. Report mouth discomfort immediately to your dentist.
10. Quickly treat any cavities or gum disease, before it is too late.
Help for Denture Wearers:
Denture wearers that have Sjögren’s Syndrome report that wearing removable dentures are like rubbing the gums with sandpaper. Patients have responded well to massaging their gum tissues daily with their finger. If you have already lost your teeth (missing teeth), there is help for you too.
As little as 2 dental implants can secure your upper denture or lower denture. The dental implants prevent the denture from sliding and causing discomfort. More progressive treatments may include a fixed bridge supported by 4-10 dental implants.
It is my wish that you find this information helpful, to improve your health and quality of life. For specific questions you may have, feel free to reach out and contact our team.
All the best,
–Dr. Joe Kravitz, DDS, MS
Prosthodontist, Dentist, and Author