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Dental students get real life training

Posted by Yvonne Wallace

Dentistry students have been working alongside people with an autoimmune disease that leaves their mouths dry and susceptible to dental problems.

By working in cooperation with those who have Sjögren’s Syndrome, the students have been able to produce a handy credit card-sized leaflet that gives more information about the condition, as well as oral health advice for sufferers.

The students, from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, have worked with a local group of Sjögren’s sufferers as part of their programme of special units study. Through these studies they have been able to learn more about Sjögren’s Syndrome and the effect that the condition can have on those who live with it.

The condition causes antibodies to attack the body’s moisture-producing glands, leading to dryness on the body due to lack of secretion. It most commonly affects the eyes, mouth, salivary glands, lungs, kidneys, skin and nervous system but all organs of the body can be affected.

As a result, it can cause many side effects, such as inflammation within the glands and a reduction in the production of tears and saliva, which causes the main symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome – dry mouth and dry eyes.

Those with the syndrome are strongly recommended to make precautions during their oral health routine as acid levels in the mouth are not correctly regulated by saliva due a sparse and infrequent production of the essential substance.

Information produced by the students includes advice on tooth brushing, cleaning aids, foods to avoid, safe snacks, tips for a more comfortable night-time, as well as potential stimulants for saliva.

Sue Sharp, from the local Sjögren’s Syndrome group, said: “Our group has benefited greatly from the contact we have had with the students. We have enjoyed the interaction with them. They are very enthusiastic and have given much thought to helping us with the problems we experience with our dry mouths and have developed a very useful tool to help us.”

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