The American Dental Association recently referred readers of its website to the national Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation and their new YouTube series on “Living with Sjögren’s”. What is Sjögren’s syndrome? Why is it important to the Sacramento Dentistry Group that patients are aware of this disease?
What is Sjögren’s Syndrome?
Henrik Sjögren was a Swedish eye doctor. In 1930 he assisted a patient suffering from extremely dry eyes, as well as arthritis and a dry mouth. After researching the scientific literature, he found similar cases noted by past doctors, but while one doctor would mention dry eyes, and another dry mouth, the various symptoms — dryness of normally moist tissues and subsequent irritation — were never connected to the same root cause. It was Sjögren who realized that the problems were related, leading to the designation Sjögren’s syndrome.
This syndrome is an autoimmune disorder affecting the glands responsible for moisturizing the eyes and the mouth. The immune system can also go on to attack other vital organs, including the kidneys, liver, lungs, and skin. Besides the aforementioned dry eyes and mouth, it can also lead to swollen salivary glands, persistent dry cough and skin rashes.
How Can Your Dentist Help With Sjögren’s Syndrome?
The number one concern for dentists helping patients with this disease is dealing with their dry mouth. A lack of saliva encourages the growth of bacteria and tooth decay. Therefore, solutions focus on keeping the mouth moist, excellent oral hygiene practices and extra exams and cleanings every year. To keep the mouth from drying out, Sjögren’s patients can do the following:
- Eat moist foods.
- Avoid acidic, spicy, or salty foods and drinks.
- Drink more fluids during the day (especially water).
- Avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol.
- Chew sugarfree gum or use sugarfree hard candies to stimulate saliva production.
- Artificial saliva sprays or some types of prescription drugs can help with dry mouth.
It may be your dentist at the Sacramento Dentistry Group that first diagnoses you with Sjögren’s syndrome. Or you may already be aware of your condition. Either way, with the assistance of our dental team you can avoid the dental decay that often comes with dry mouth and this autoimmune disorder.