Survey Findings Show Link Between Dentists' Schleroderma Knowledge and Confidence Treating Patients

An online survey of dentists in Massachusetts suggests that their confidence in treating patients with scleroderma may be related to their familiarity with the disease.

Scleroderma-derived from the Greek words "sclero", meaning hard and "derma", meaning skin-is a group of autoimmune diseases characterized by thickened and hardened skin. Patients with scleroderma often have small mouths and tightened skin on hands and fingers, which makes it difficult for them to brush and floss their teeth.

Researchers at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston sent an online survey to the 4,465 members of the Massachusetts Dental Society. Two hundred sixty-nine dentists completed the survey.

The survey contained questions about dentists' knowledge of scleroderma and their confidence or ability in treating patients with the disease.

According to the researchers, 71 percent of responding dentists felt prepared to treat patients with scleroderma, and they were more likely to be knowledgeable about potential oral complications, such as dry mouth. Twenty-eight percent of dentists reported that they did not feel qualified to treat patients with the disease.

A majority of respondents (51 percent) were concerned that a lack of knowledge about the disease might cause harm to the patient. About 96 percent reported they would like to learn more about the disease.

"In this case, dentists may be overly concerned about their patients' needs, because they feel that they do not know enough to treat someone with scleroderma, and thus fear causing harm", said study author David Leader, DMD, MPH. "That said, if dentists have access to knowledge about how to accommodate patients with scleroderma, they can confidently provide care."

Visit for more information about dry mouth and other oral health concerns ( For additional information about scleroderma, visit the Scleroderma Foundation (

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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