Sjogren’s Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder affecting the moisture producing glands. The body’s immune response is to attack these cells which causes them to stop working. This can be saliva glands, tear ducts and other organs. The issue for oral health occurs when the saliva glands are affected and flow of saliva is reduced. Sjogrens is more prevalent in perimenopausal women ages 40-50, but also appears across all racial and ethnic groups.
As with many autoimmune diseases the direct cause of Sjogren’s is unknown. On average it takes 4.7 years for a patient to receive a diagnosis, despite being one of the most common autoimmune disorders. Sjogren’s Syndrome has been given two separate classifications. Primary, which manifests as dryness of the mouth and eyes, and secondary, which is associated with another systemic rheumatic autoimmune diseases 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 importance 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.
The growth of decay advances rapidly when xerostomia is left untreated. If you feel you’ve been having dry mouth, always mention it to your dentist and hygienist. It may be caused by medications, but may also be an indicator of Sjogren’s syndrome. Working with your Dentist and physician to get a definitive diagnosis is important. 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