Understanding Sjogren’s Syndrome

Published on May 3, 2014 by

Sjogren’s Syndrome is a chronic inflammatory disease that can have a significant impact on a patient’s oral health. It is an auto-immune disease whose cause is still unknown and occurs approximately nine times more in women than in men. It is characterized by lymphocytic infiltration of the endocrine glands, particularly the salvivary and lacrimal glands that produce saliva and tears, and it causes dysfunction and structural damage of these glands leading to xerophthalmia (dry eyes) and xerostomia (dry mouth). It is important that a patient suspected to have Sjogren’s Syndrome is evaluated by a multidisciplinary team of health care providers including opthamologists, otolaryngogists, and prosthodontists.

Oral symptoms may include burning oral mucosa, early tooth loss, increased tooth wear, poor tolerance with removable dentures, and a high caries rate. Preventative dental treatment is extremely important as the lack of saliva creates an ideal environment for the proliferation of bacteria that cause dental caries(cavities). A personalized preventative regimen may include at-home topical fluoride application to stregnthen tooth enamel, saliva replacements, and frequent teeth cleanings by a dental hygienist. Existing cavities must be treated to prevent high risk of spreading into the pulp of the teeth, leading to more extensive treatments or even tooth loss.

Patients with Sjogren’s Syndrome need to be properly guided and closely monitored. It affects people not only physically but also emotionallt and socially. Prosthodontists are trained to diagnose this disease and apply a comprehensive therapy in order to provide the best quality of life.

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