Does Dry Mouth Cause Cavities? Sjögren's Syndrome And Dental Care

Posted on: 17 September 2019

Sjögren's Syndrome and Saliva

Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disease that causes the body's immune system to launch an attack on healthy tissues as if they contained foreign substances or pathogens. Some of the tissues targeted by the immune system are salivary glands. This causes a decrease in the production of saliva, which results in dry lips, oral cavity, and throat.

Saliva is composed of water, enzymes and lubricating agents. It is produced in three separate glands located in the cheek, under the tongue and under the jawbone. In addition to keeping your mouth and teeth moist, saliva aids in chewing and swallowing, breaking down starches, and fighting bacteria in the mouth.

Cavities and Infections

Reduced saliva can lead to cavities. Bacteria in the mouth break down food particles and produce acid as a byproduct. The acid eats away at teeth's surface. Saliva rinses some of the bacteria off teeth, and it's higher pH that helps to neutralize the acidity. Because people with Sjögren's syndrome produce less saliva, they are more prone to caries.

People with Sjögren's syndrome are also  more susceptible to infections, so it is important to watch out for any changes in the oral tissue, in addition to cavity formation. Signs of infection in the mouth include white patches, sores, and inflamed areas that are red or tender. Sjögren's syndrome may require more frequent checkups at your dental office to monitor teeth and oral tissues for cavities or infection.

Pick the Right Toothpaste

Brushing daily and flossing are de rigeur for keeping teeth healthy, but the type of toothpaste you use can have an impact on dry mouth symptoms. Choose a toothpaste that doesn't contain sodium lauryl sulfate, an ingredient that is linked to the formation of canker sores. Abrasive toothpastes are good for whitening teeth, but they also weaken the surface of teeth which is further exacerbated by a decrease in saliva. Flossing daily is especially important for preventing plaque formation when the ability to bathe teeth in saliva is reduced.

Don't Rush to Brush

Knowing that sugary and acidic foods are particularly troubling for your teeth, you might be tempted to brush immediately after eating dessert or citrus fruits. However, Johns Hopkins University Sjögren's Center recommends rinsing teeth with water or a dental rinse right away and then brush about 30 minutes later. In this instance, a low-fluoride rinse is preferred after consuming foods high in acid or sugar.

Dietary Changes

Foods that are very spicy or salty can contribute to dryness and irritation in the mouth. Sweet and sour foods can lead to plaque development and cavities. Drinking alcoholic beverages also makes dry mouth worse.

Some foods can encourage saliva secretion, according to Delta Dental. Saliva-stimulating choices include soft foods, high-moisture foods such as fresh produce and foods with sauces that aren't too salty or spicy. Sucking on mints or hard candies also stimulates the salivary glands to release more saliva. Be sure to stick to sugar-free candy to avoid cavities.

Of course, you should also regularly visit a dentist such as Desert Dental: Ruintan Kamran D.M.D. to make sure your teeth are in good shape.