Dryness from Sjögren’s may affect any organ in the body that secretes moisture, because the body’s immune system is mistakenly attacking its own moisture-producing glands. Almost every Sjögren’s patient experiences some degree of dry mouth, which is caused by a decrease in both the quantity and quality of saliva.
Saliva plays an immensely important role in the oral cavity, which is why proper dry mouth care and attention is critical for a person’s overall oral health. If dry mouth persists for months or years, the decreased salivation can lead to many oral complications such as severe and progressive tooth decay, oral infections (particularly fungal), difficulty swallowing, or a combinations of these. Dr. Rhodus explains more below about the importance of saliva:
"A human being normally produces approximately 1.5 liters of saliva per day. There is a typical diurnal circadian rhythm in the production of that saliva with one peak in the mid-morning followed by a relative decrease until the second peak occurs around early evening.
Saliva flow normally is decreased at night. Saliva is produced by several glands: the submandibular glands (which lie bilaterally just under the posterior jaw) produce most of the quantity of saliva (45%) and it is a mixed fluid with both mucous (thick, stringy fluid) and water but containing most of the proteins; the paired parotid glands (which are in the mid-face just in front of the ears) produce primarily serous (or watery) fluid and accounts for about 35% of the total quantity; the sublingual glands (again in a pair just beneath the anterior tongue) are much smaller and contribute only about 10% of the total volume; and finally there are hundreds of small minor salivary glands in the lips, palate and throat which contribute a relatively small, but important portion of natural salivary flow.
The normal quantity of saliva naturally provides necessary oral lubrication and moisture to assure comfort and function for the individual, but saliva does much more than that. At least equally as important as this volume of saliva, if not more so, is the composition of saliva, which is rich in constituents which have potent digestive, coating, protective, antimicrobial, antiacid, lubricative and homeostatic properties. Saliva is much more than water. In fact, saliva contains approximately 60 important, protective constituents including: immunoglobulins,electrolytes, buffers, antimicrobial enzymes, digestive enzymes and many others, all of which make saliva an essential contributor to the health and homeostasis of the oral cavity. This is the reason that water or artificial salivas are a poor substitute; none of them have the rich composition of ones own natural saliva."
This post is the introduction from "The Importance of Silvia" article written by Nelson L. Rhodus, DMD, MPH, FICD, that was first published in The Moisture Seekers, SSF's member newsletter. SSF members can click here to read the full article on the members section of the website.