Background Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a severe chronic connective tissue disease with a high disease burden. Oral involvement with impaired oral aperture (microstomia) is frequent and associated with impaired food intake, oral hygiene and secondary dental problems. Preventive measures through mouth-stretching and oral augmentation exercises have been shown to reverse the progression of microstomia.
Objectives This exploratory study assesses the effectiveness and feasibility of two different exercise approaches designed to increase oral aperture.
Methods Two groups had to exercise for 10 min, 3 times/day for 3 months. Group A exercised with a passive jaw motion device (Therabite), and Group B did mouth-stretching exercises. Patients were contacted 4 times by telephone to address encountered problems. The subjects used an exercise diary to document compliance. Patients were evaluated at baseline, 3 months (period without intervention), 6 months (at the end of the treatment after 3 months of intervention) and 9 months (follow-up).
Results At present, 9 patients (Therabite n=4, mouth-stretching exercises n=5) were included and recruitment is ongoing. Seven patients completed the study and increase of oral aperture was observed in all patients in both groups. In the Therabite group, after 3 months of exercise, increase of oral aperture was 9, 2, 9 and 10 mm. In the mouth-stretching exercise group the increase of oral aperture was 11, 10 and 4 mm after 3 months. The compliance, measured as the ratio of executed exercises relative to the planned number of exercises was 95,2%, 85,7%, 98,9% and 63,7% in the Therabite group and 97,4%, 48,6% and 68,3% in the mouth-stretching exercise group.
Conclusions An increase of oral aperture is observed in all patients after 3 months of exercising with the Therabite device as well as after mouth-stretching exercises. No clear differences are observed between both groups, but the study was not designed nor powered for this. Remarkably, a high compliance for the treatment regime was observed in most patients.
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Disclosure of Interest None declared
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