Sjogren’s Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which the body begins invading it’s own moisture producing glands. This can be saliva glands, tear ducts and other types of organs. The problem for oral health occurs when the saliva glands are affected and flow of saliva is reduced. This autoimmune disorder shows up in all racial and ethnic groups, but happens to be more common in women of the ages 40-50 years (perimenopausal).
The cause of Sjogren’s is unknown, as is the case with many autoimmune diseases. Despite being one of the most common autoimmune disorders, it takes an average of 4.7 years to receive a diagnosis, according to the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation. Sjogren’s Syndrome has been given two independent classifications. Primary, which demonstrates as dryness of the mouth and eyes, and secondary, which is associated with another systemic rheumatic autoimmune disease such as scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
The primary effect of Sjogren’s on oral health is xerostomia (dry mouth) caused by the damage to salivary glands. Saliva plays multiple roles of high emphasis in the oral cavity:
-Washes away food debris after eating and drinking.
-Maintains more neutral pH to counteract the acidic effects of bacteria.
-Retains calcium, phosphorus and fluoride ions to keep enamel strong.
-Moistens food and contains enzymes to begin digestion.
If left untreated xerostomia can severely increase the rate and severity of tooth decay in individual experiences. If you feel you’ve been having dry mouth symptoms, always mention it to your dentist and hygienist. It may be caused by medications you’re taking, but it may also be an indicator of Sjogren’s syndrome. It’s important to work in sequence with your physician and dentist to get a definitive diagnosis. If you have questions about Sjogren’s Syndrome or Xerostomia, ask your dentist or hygienist at your next visit with us!
National Center for Biotechnology Information