The group, from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, has worked with local people with Sjögren’s Syndrome (an autoimmune rheumatic disease) to create an oral health advice leaflet that is to be made available via the British Sjögren’s Syndrome Association.
The students have worked with the local group of those with the condition as part of their programme of special study units, which sees students interacting with a wide variety of groups in the community.
The local group has visited the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry Dental Education Facility at Derriford, Plymouth, for information and advice presentations. The group and students have also visited the Wrigley Company Limited factory in Plymouth.
Sjögren’s Syndrome is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks glands that secrete fluid, such as the tear and saliva glands, the skin and the gastrointestinal tract.
The condition can cause widespread effects. Inflammation within the glands reduces the production of tears and saliva which causes the main symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome, dry mouth (which may cause difficulty swallowing) and dry eyes.
In terms of oral health, those with Sjögren’s Syndrome need to take greater care with oral hygiene than most because they do not produce sufficient levels of saliva which help to control acid levels within the mouth.
Working with local people with the condition, dental students have produced a useful credit card-sized fold-out leaflet that provides advice and information on tooth brushing, cleaning aids, advice on foods to avoid, safe snacks, tips for a more comfortable night-time and potential stimulants for saliva – which include sugarfree chewing gum.
Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry have developed a close working relationship with Wrigley.
The dental team has supported employee health events and worked with the company on oral health initiatives with Country Holidays for Inner City Kids (CHICKS), the company’s chosen charity. Wrigley also provide sugarfree gum for goody bags for events and activities run by the dental team and students.
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.
Louisa Rowntree, communications manager who oversees the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme in the UK, said: ‘Sugarfree chewing gum provides many oral health care benefits, and plays a vital role in a good oral health care routine. Wrigley is passionate about supporting our community and partnering with the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry is a way to make a combined difference in the local area.’
Robert Witton, clinical lead in Social Engagement and Community-based Dentistry at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, added: ‘Special study units are an important element of our teaching programme and allow our students to interact with a wide range of groups within the community.
'This particular group has done a great job in using their experience with local people with Sjögren’s Syndrome to create an information and advice leaflet that can be used by other sufferers. Our thanks go to our local Sjögren’s Syndrome group, the British Sjögren’s Syndrome Association and to Wrigley for helping us to make this exercise such a success.'