Autoimmune Series: The Oral Health Impact of Sjogren’s Syndrome

November 7, 2019


Sjogren’s Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that causes your immune system to attack glands that produce tears and saliva. This affects your body’s ability to produce moisture. This of course makes the most common symptoms of this disorder, dry mouth and dry eyes. The issue for oral health occurs when the saliva glands are affected and flow of saliva is reduced. This autoimmune disorder appears across all racial and ethnic groups, but is more common in women ages 40-50 years (perimenopausal). 

The cause of Sjogren’s is unknown, as is the case with many autoimmune diseases. Despite being one of the most common autoimmune disorders, it takes an average of 4.7 years to receive a diagnosis, according to the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation. Sjogren’s Syndrome has been given two separate classifications. Primary, which manifests as dryness of the mouth and eyes, and secondary, which is associated with another systemic rheumatic autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Woman drinking water.

Dry mouth from Sjogren’s Syndrome will not subside, no matter how much water you drink.


The primary effect of Sjogren’s on oral health is xerostomia (dry mouth) caused by the damage to salivary glands. Saliva plays multiple roles of high importance in the oral cavity:


-Washes away food debris after eating and drinking.

-Maintains more neutral pH to counteract the acidic effects of bacteria.


-Retains calcium, phosphorus and fluoride ions to keep enamel strong. 


-Moistens food and contains enzymes to begin digestion.


-The deficiency of saliva can also cause difficulty with swallowing and dry throat.


Combined with a prescribed treatment plan, a moderated diet can help to prevent or reduce dryness and inflammation. This of course should be discussed with your physician but is a solution you can pursue to help ease symptoms. Sjogren’s diet is similar to most well-balanced diets and focuses on meals that include vegetables, lean proteins, and fruits. It will also be targeting the elimination of foods that are known to cause inflammation or trigger allergic reactions. 

Some of these common trigger foods include: 

  • Red meat
  • Processed foods 
  • Fried foods
  • Dairy

    Leafy greens can prevent inflammation.

    A diet high in leafy greens can help decrease chronic inflammation.

  • Sugars and Sweets
  • Alcohol 
  • Soda
  • Gluten
  • Refined grains
  • Safflower, corn and canola oils

Foods with anti-inflammatory effects to include:

  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Fruits
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Fatty fish
  • Olives, olive oil
  • Avocado
  • Whole Grains


How you cook your foods can also affect dry mouth symptoms. Here are some additional tips to make your meals more enjoyable:

  • If you choose to make a sandwich, consider adding vegetables that are high in moisture, such as cucumbers.
  • Adding sauces to your meals can ease swallowing, but use creamy sauces in moderation to limit fat content.
  • Try soups and smoothies as alternatives to dry foods.
  • Drink with your meals to ease swallowing.
  • Soften your foods with broth.
  • Tender-cook your meats to prevent them from drying out.

If left untreated xerostomia can severely increase the rate and severity of decay an individual experiences. If you feel you’ve been having dry mouth, always mention it to your dentist and hygienist. It may be caused by medications, but may also be an indicator of Sjogren’s syndrome. It’s important to work in conjunction with your physician and dentist to get a definitive diagnosis. If you have questions about Sjogren’s Syndrome or Xerostomia, ask your dentist or hygienist at your next visit with us! 



Mouth Healthy 

National Center for Biotechnology Information




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