Sjögren’s syndrome is an uncommon autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks your body’s moisture-producing glands. This can cause dryness in the eyes, mouth, and throat. However, as a rheumatic disease, Sjögren’s syndrome also causes symptoms that overlap with rheumatoid arthritis. This includes attacks on the temporomandibular joints and the jaw muscles. The result is temporomandibular joint disorder symptoms (TMJ / TMD). The most common TMJ symptoms for Sjögren’s syndrome patients is jaw pain, either when moving the jaw or when someone touches the jaw muscle. In this situation, Sjögren’s syndrome falls under the type of TMJ called degenerative joint disease (abbreviated DJD).

It also commonly results in severe dental complications. Saliva is your body’s natural defense against oral bacteria. When your mouth is dry, bacteria are free to grow, and the acid they secrete isn’t buffered, so it causes more damage to your teeth. So people with Sjögren’s syndrome are more likely to lose teeth.

But how do you replace those lost teeth? It turns out that dental implants are a good solution for people with Sjögren’s syndrome, often better than dentures.

handsome man in a yellow collared shirt and arms folded smilesConcerns and Benefits of Dental Implants

For people with Sjögren’s syndrome, there’s concern that dental implants will suffer the same fate as your natural teeth: infection, destruction, and loss. After all, diminished saliva production can also impact dental implants.

But it turns out that’s not a significant concern. Two 2016 studies looked at the viability of dental implants in people with Sjögren’s syndrome. One compared 205 women with Sjögren’s syndrome with 87 healthy controls. They found that the Sjögren’s syndrome patients were more likely to have removable dentures or dental implants (49% vs. 30%). Although the patients hadn’t had implants that long (less than five years), the implants had a survival rate of over 95%.

A previous retrospective study followed up with Sjögren’s syndrome patients to see how many had dental implants. A relatively high percentage (21%) had dental implants. Compared to healthy controls, the Sjögren’s syndrome patients had good peri-implant health, and the survival rate for dental implants was 97%, although the follow-up was short (46 months).

Reviews Confirm Implants Are Good for Patients

More recent studies have confirmed these results, showing that dental implants work well for people with Sjögren’s syndrome. A 2019 study combined a case series with a systematic review, showing generally high implant survival rates. In the case series, 19 patients received 107 dental implants. After a follow-up that averaged more than ten years, only 2.8% of those dental implants failed—the systematic review identified over 700 implants placed in similar patients. The failure rate was essentially the same (2.8%), although the average follow-up time was shorter (six years). 

The quality of results is so good that a 2021 review concluded that the overall success rate of dental implants in patients with Sjögren’s syndrome was around 95%. Although some studies had low quality, the authors stated their belief that dental implants are a good way to replace lost teeth for people with Sjögren’s syndrome

None of these studies focused on the role of TMJ symptoms for patients with Sjögren’s syndrome and dental implants. 

Denture Concerns

With these good results for dental implants, it’s hard to see the benefits of dentures for Sjögren’s syndrome patients. A dry mouth can significantly impact a person’s comfort and health with dentures. Irritation from partial dentures can be more serious in a person with dry mouth. And there’s a good chance that the impact partial dentures have on your natural teeth (wear and increased cavities) might be increased if you have dry mouth.

Add this to the generally poor function and low satisfaction with partial dentures, and there seems to be little reason to pursue partial dentures for Sjögren’s syndrome patients.

Dental Implants Are the Best Solution for Missing Teeth

When considering dental implants, it’s important to take into consideration potential health conditions that can negatively impact your odds of success. Sjögren’s syndrome certainly has the potential to do that, but it seems like it’s not a major concern.

Dental implants are the best approach to replace teeth lost due to Sjögren’s syndrome.

If you are looking for an Orange County implant dentist, please call (949) 551-5902 to schedule an appointment at Rice Dentistry in Irvine.