How many of you experience a dry mouth as a result from lupus or Sjogren’s Syndrome, chronic illness cousins? A lot of hands just shot up, so I know I’m barking up a tree ‘close to home.’ In the autoimmune cycle, when attack is leveled on exocrine glands (mucous-producing and salivary glands), dry eyes, dry mouth and vaginal dryness result. At first dry mouth was an inconvenience and I didn’t know what all the fuss was about, but when I stopped being able to chew crackers without a glass of milk or water at hand, started having difficulty swallowing, my mouth was always parched and people couldn’t understand a word I was saying (no joke!); the dryness became more than an inconvenience.
Oral dryness caused cavity after cavity to the point where I needed teeth pulled and bridges. In two cases, front teeth roots died and a bridge could’t be anchored, so we spent our life savings on dental implants. I’ve had so many cavities and root canals over the years, despite taking EXCELLENT care of my teeth, brushing and closing at least 3 times a day. The parotid glands which are exocrine glands, normally secrete saliva and help with cleansing the mouth and some digestion, become compromised and don’t secrete as much saliva, the dark mouth is now dry, making a perfect environment for bacteria to thrive causing bad breath. But that isn’t all; along with sugary foods, the lack of automatic cleansing leads to more dental caries.
On occasion, the duct which runs from the parotid gland (just in front of the ear) to the mouth (the stenson duct) becomes blocked and the parotid gland can’t fight the often inevitable infection and an abscess forms in the parotid gland. This is quite painful and some Sjogren’s patients get this infectious parotitis in their early stages of the disease. These infections cause quite painful swelling (I call them ‘chipmunk cheeks’) and occasionally require IV antibiotics Below, is a simple drawing of the parotid gland, and stenson duct:
What is the upshot of all of this? Take immaculate care of your teeth. You only have on set and caring for problems with your tenth is incredibly expensive.
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