Sjögren’s (pronounced SHOW-grins) syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own moisture-producing glands, the tear-secreting and salivary glands as well as other organs. Symptoms include:
- Dry eyes and dry mouth
- Dysfunction of other organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system
- Extreme fatigue and joint pain
Sjögren’s can affect virtually every racial and ethnic group; however, the National Institutes of Health shows that it is more common in women ages 40 to 50. According to the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation, nine out of 10 patients diagnosed with the disorder are women.
The cause of Sjögren’s syndrome is unknown. The Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation reports that more than four million Americans suffer from Sjögren’s. This makes it one of the most common autoimmune disorders.
Due to the decreased flow of saliva, Sjögren’s can pose a serious threat to your oral health. Saliva, or spit, plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy mouth. It also helps to:
- Wash away food and debris from teeth and gums
- Moisten and break down food to ease swallowing and enhances ability to taste
- Provide disease-fighting substances throughout your mouth to help prevent cavities and other infections
- Keep the surface of your teeth strong by providing high levels of calcium, fluoride and phosphate ions at the tooth surface.
Because the symptoms of Sjögren’s are similar to other conditions and diseases, it can be very hard to diagnose. According to the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation, on average it takes 4.7 years to receive a diagnosis of Sjögren’s.
If you suffer from dry mouth, it is important to be proactive and discuss your treatment options with your dentist or physician.
For more information, visit the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation.