30 Aug How Sjögren’s Syndrome Affects the Mouth
Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that affects the body’s ability to produce fluids like saliva and tears. This chronic condition can have a significant impact on your oral health. If you have Sjögren’s syndrome, here’s how to manage its effects so you can keep your mouth healthy.
What Is Sjögren’s Syndrome?
Sjögren’s syndrome is a systemic autoimmune disease. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the moisture-producing glands in the body, such as salivary and tear glands. This can primarily result in dry mouth and dry eyes, but can also cause joint pain, skin rashes, and fatigue.
About four million people in the United States are living with this rare condition. If you suspect you have Sjögren’s syndrome, speak with your dentist or doctor about your symptoms. Managing this disorder can prevent serious complications for your dental and overall health later on.
Five Ways Sjögren’s Syndrome Affects the Mouth
1: Dry Mouth
Sjögren’s syndrome primarily targets the salivary glands, so one of the hallmark symptoms is dry mouth (xerostomia). Saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining good oral health by neutralizing acids, washing away food particles, and aiding in digestion. If your mouth fails to produce enough saliva, it can cause discomfort, difficulty speaking and swallowing, as well as an increased risk of tooth decay.
A lack of saliva makes the mouth a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Saliva is also necessary for remineralizing and strengthening enamel, so decreased saliva flow leaves teeth more vulnerable. Dry mouth caused by Sjögren’s can significantly increase the risk of tooth decay and cavities.
3: Gum Disease
Excessive bacteria buildup due to Sjögren’s can also increase the risk of gum disease. This severe infection leads to inflammation, gum recession, bleeding gums, and even tooth loss if left untreated. Gum disease only gets worse over time, so it’s important to contact your dentist if you notice any redness, tenderness, swelling, or bleeding around the gums.
4: Mouth Sores
Dry mouth and a reduced immune response can make you more likely to develop mouth sores and ulcers. These lesions make speaking and eating uncomfortable, impacting your quality of life. Without proper management, mouth sores from Sjögren’s syndrome are likely to reoccur.
A compromised immune response and altered oral environment make individuals with Sjögren’s syndrome more susceptible to fungal infections like oral thrush. Also known as oral candidiasis, thrush appears as white patches on the tongue, inner cheeks, and other parts of the mouth.
Sjögren’s Syndrome Treatment
Although there is no cure for Sjögren’s syndrome, you can manage the symptoms and prevent them from getting worse.
Follow these tips for better oral health:
- Stay hydrated. Drink water regularly to alleviate dry mouth symptoms and help flush bacteria out of your mouth.
- Practice good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day and floss daily to eliminate bacteria.
- Use artificial saliva products. Try over-the-counter saliva substitutes to help lubricate your mouth and relieve discomfort.
- Try sugar-free gum and lozenges. Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free lozenges can help stimulate saliva flow.
- Eat a healthy diet. Opt for a balanced diet that’s rich in vitamins and minerals to support good oral health.
- Avoid sugary and acidic foods. Limit your intake of sugary and acidic foods and beverages, which can further dry out your mouth and cause enamel erosion
- Schedule regular dental visits. Visit the dentist at least twice a year for cleanings to thoroughly rid your mouth of bacteria, and exams to check for signs of problems like gum disease before they get worse.
Gentle Dentist in Sun Lakes, Arizona
Staying proactive about your oral health is crucial in protecting your mouth from the damaging effects of Sjögren’s syndrome and dry mouth. A professional teeth cleaning and preventive treatment from Dr. Saba and Associates can help protect your mouth from cavities, gum disease, and other dental issues. We’ll help you keep your smile healthy and beautiful despite the impact Sjögren’s syndrome can have on your mouth. Call our office at 480-895-2111 to schedule an appointment.