Thyroid disorder affects approximately 20 million Americans. But did you know that there's a direct link between your thyroid and your oral health?

Thyroid Disorders and Oral Health

January 13, 2021

The thyroid: it may be small, but it plays an incredibly big part in the day-to-day functions of our bodies. So much so that all of our cells rely on the thyroid to work properly, even those cells related to the health of our teeth and gums.

Unfortunately, an estimated 20 million Americans are living with some sort of thyroid dysfunction, and what’s more, up to 60% of them don’t even know it. More than 12% of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid disorder in their lifetime, and this can lead to a host of other health problems, including oral conditions such as ulcers and gum disease.

But there is good news. If caught early and given the proper treatment, most thyroid disorders can be easily managed, reducing the risk for developing serious conditions later. In some cases, it may even be your dentist who first spots the signs of thyroid disease and aids in early diagnosis.

Use our “Find a Dentist” tool to locate a provider who can help you care for your smile!

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What Is Thyroid Disorder?

The thyroid is the gland that produces the hormones that regulate our metabolism and tell our bodies how fast to work. If the hormone levels are too low, the body goes into hypothyroidism and the essential functions start slowing down. If levels get too high, the body revs these functions into overdrive, otherwise known as hyperthyroidism.

How Are Thyroid Disease and Oral Health Linked?

Both thyroid conditions can present themselves in the mouth and, as with diabetes, oral problems could be among the early warning signs of the disease.

Bleeding and infection risk: Patients may experience increased inflammation and bleeding of the gums. Especially in those with hypothyroidism, delayed wound healing can lead to greater risk of infection.

Dry mouth: Another common problem is dry mouth — a condition of the salivary glands that affects more than half of those with thyroid disease. While this can result in uncomfortable issues such as difficulty swallowing, another problem is the rapid development of cavities. Without enough saliva to clear away food and bacteria, the mouth becomes a breeding ground for gum disease and tooth decay. Left untreated, these conditions can progress to advanced periodontal disease and tooth loss.

Other potential signs of thyroid disease in the mouth might include:

Hypothyroidism Hyperthyroidism
Enlarged salivary glands or tongue Enlarged extra glandular thyroid tissue
Impaired sense of taste Burning mouth
Delayed tooth eruption in children Accelerated tooth eruption in children
Thin enamel Oral ulcers (especially in those with lupus)
Smaller than normal lower jaw Decreased mass in the upper and lower jaw bones
Slanted front teeth (anterior open bite) Increased anxiety or stress around dental procedures

Caring for Your Oral Health with Thyroid Disease

If you are diagnosed with thyroid disease, you can stay on top of your oral health by working with your dental team to monitor your symptoms and design a plan that fits your needs.

Depending on the exact condition and its severity, dental procedures may need to be modified. In some cases, particular substances might need to be avoided, such as certain antiseptics, vasoconstrictors, or post-procedure medications. In more extreme situations, dental procedures may even be delayed if a patient’s blood pressure and pulse rate are too high.

Outside of the dentist’s office, there are other ways to tailor your routine toward a thyroid disease. Those who suffer from dry mouth might find relief in toothpastes and mouthwash specifically formulated to fight those symptoms.

You might also consider switching to food and beverage products made with the sweetener xylitol. Not only can the compound help you reduce the intake of unhealthy sugars which cavity-causing bacteria love, but studies have shown that it may even help reduce other bad bacteria in the mouth by up to 75%.

As always, visit your dentist twice a year and be sure to keep them updated on any changes you’ve noticed in your mouth. There may not be a cure for thyroid disease, but with the right maintenance and treatment plans, you can make sure it doesn’t affect your sparkling smile.

Use our “Find a Dentist” tool to locate a provider who can help you care for your smile!

Find a Dentist