Sjogren’s Syndrome: Dental Considerations

Sjogrens Syndrome (SS) is a chronic autoimmune rheumatic disease. It is the second most common rheumatoid arthritis (RA), affecting one to 4 million people. It typically begins in the fourth to sixth decade of life. The majority (90%) of SS suffers are middle-aged white perimenopausal females. SS has also been seen in men, children, and the aged. The prevalence ratio of women to men is 9:1.

There are 2 types of SS, primary and secondary. Primary SS occurs independently of any other associated disorder or systemic disease. Secondary SS occurs in association with another connective tissue disease such as systemic lupus erythematosus, RA, scleroderma, or relapsing polychondritis. Secondary SS accounts for approximately 60% of Sjogrens patients.

What are Sjogren’s syndrome symptoms and signs?

Symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome can involve the glands, as above, but there are also possible effects of the illness involving other organs of the body (extraglandular manifestations).

When the tear gland (lacrimal gland) is inflamed from Sjogren’s, the resulting eye dryness can progressively lead to eye irritation, decreased tear production, a “gritty” sensation, infection, and serious abrasion of the dome of the eye (cornea). Dry eyes can lead to infections of the eyes. The condition of having dry eyes is medically referred to as xerophthalmia.

Inflammation of the salivary glands can lead to mouth dryness, swallowing difficulties, dental decay, cavities, gum disease, mouth sores and swelling, and stones and/or infection of the parotid gland inside of the cheeks. Dry lips often accompany the mouth dryness. Dry mouth is medically referred to as xerostomia.

Typical signs and symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Dental cavities
  • Fatigue
  • Enlarged parotid glands – one particular set of your salivary glands, located behind your jaw and in front of your ears
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Change in sense of taste
  • Hoarseness
  • Oral yeast infections, such as Candidiasis
  • Skin rashes or dry skin
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Dry cough that does not produce sputum
  • Joint pain, swelling and stiffness

If you want more information give your Minnesota Dentistry a call. Dentists are trained to recognize the symptoms of these diseases.