We take so many things for granted until we don’t have them in sufficient quantities or quality. For Sjogren’s patients that would include saliva. (And tears of course, but that’s a story for another day.)
Sometimes Sjogren’s patients still have some saliva but I have been told and have read it is of a different quality than normal. Other Sjogren’s patients have quite a large quantity remaining, so find this to be one of their lesser symptoms.
I wouldn’t say the problem of dry mouth varies too much overall in my case. It’s always bad. Though of course there are things that make it slightly better or worse such as types of foods consumed, some teas, certain toothpastes and mouthwashes (especially those containing alcohol).
There is help for dry mouth, both oral medications (a couple different types – Salagen or Evoxac), as well as over the counter products. I have never tried the oral prescription meds because they have never been recommended to me, and also they can have many side effects (lung issues, profuse sweating, etc.) Some people do not tolerate them well. I often have issues with medications so have steered clear of them so far, but would consider if I started choking frequently or developed increasingly serious oral health issues.
I have used over the counter saliva “substitutes” which I do not find pleasant. I once told a doctor it was like having someone else’s lemon flavoured spit in my mouth. It was not like saliva at all but it was a temporary solution, a bit of a fix. There are also numerous other dry mouth products such as discs and lozenges, as well as toothpastes and mouthwashes specifically formulated to help patients cope with the dry mouth symptoms. Sjogren’s patients need to be diligent about oral hygiene and have regular dental cleanings and check-ups. I love my Sonicare electric toothbrush and highly recommend it or another quality electric toothbrush for part of an excellent oral hygiene regimen.
Oral problems that can occur due to dry mouth include overall oral discomfort (just having a very dry mouth does not feel good), tooth decay, fungal infections, difficulty swallowing dry foods (or even other foods such as lettuce, raw carrots, etc.), difficulty speaking due to tongue and lips sticking, gum disease, bad breath, teeth adhering to cheeks while sleeping, and salivary gland enlargement.
It is important to remember saliva in your mouth is the beginning of the digestive process, vital and not to be taken for granted. If you have lots, celebrate it – swish it around and remind yourself of all the good things it does for you!
NOTE: I appreciate the interest in my Sjogren’s awareness posts and the questions that have come forth over the last couple weeks. Just a reminder, these blog posts are my own experiences and not intended to be a replacement for advice from your own physician or medical specialist. It is also important to remember that symptoms and resulting treatments can vary greatly from patient to patient; that is another reason Sjogren’s Syndrome is so difficult to diagnosis and to treat.