Several important societal and visual elements rely on your mouth’s overall appearance and function. Therefore, maintaining good oral health is important. Many are not aware that the thyroid has a large degree of influence regarding oral wellness and function. Furthermore, it is likely that a large percentage of the estimated 30 million Americans suffering thyroid dysfunction do not realize that their condition may be contributing to serious dental issues.
Those with a strong understanding of thyroid disease and an appreciation of its impact on oral health are better equipped to identify and resolve thyroid related dental issues.
What is Thyroid Disease?
The thyroid is a small gland located at the base of the neck that influences numerous bodily functions through the production of various hormones – learn even more about the thyroid here. These hormones regulate the activity level of virtually all cells and tissues throughout the body. When working as intended the thyroid regulates healthy metabolic function, neurological activity, energy level, fat storage, and much more. Thyroid disease can cause hormone imbalances resulting in widespread bodily dysfunction.
The two most common forms of thyroid disease are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is defined as a slowing of thyroid function that leads to a deficit of thyroid hormones. If the body is not supplied with the proper number of thyroid hormones, it begins to slow down. This often results in symptoms such as chronic fatigue, weight gain, difficulty thinking clearly, muscle and joint pain or weakness, and others – get a full list of thyroid disease symptoms here.
Hyperthyroidism is described as a sustained and unnecessary increase of thyroid activity. As the production of thyroid hormone reaches an excessive degree, the body experiences an unnecessary hastening of numerous functions. Typically, this increase in activity is accompanied by symptoms including diarrhea, anxiety, sudden or rapid weight loss, erratic energy level, changes in mood, and more.
Thyroid Disease and Oral Health
The thyroid has broad range of influence meaning that malfunction can result in disruption of seemingly unrelated systems. One area that may be impacted by thyroid dysfunction is the mouth. The following dental issues may be caused by an underlying thyroid condition.
Damaged or weakened gums are more likely to develop gum disease, which leads to increased bacterial presence in the mouth. Not only does this increase the risk of infection but also the likelihood of swollen or bleeding gums and jaw spasms. Worse still, some research suggests that increased bacterial presence associated with gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The thyroid is an important factor in the natural healing process. In a healthy system, gum tissue regenerates, which protects against periodontal disease and even contribute to the reversal of gingivitis. However, inhibited restorative ability caused by thyroid disease may lead to weakening or degradation of the gums.
Thyroid patients may develop a condition known as dysgeusia, in which their sense of taste is altered. In some cases, the change in flavor can be dramatic. This may result in dietary alterations that cause patients to avoid healthy foods and miss out on beneficial or essential nutrients that compound the issue.
Saliva is an important part of health by helping to maintain oral wellness. This natural protectant reduces the risk of cavities through the dissolution of foods, removal of bacteria and food particles, and prevention of plaque buildup. Saliva also delivers minerals and other nutrients critical for maintaining tooth strength and structure.
Thyroid disease can limit saliva production thereby contributing to dry mouth. Without a regular supply of saliva, food particles can more easily cling to teeth, which increases the risk of bacterial growth, tooth decay, and cavities. With reduced saliva also comes reduced mineral delivery, which results in weaker teeth over time.
A common symptom of hypothyroidism is expansion of the tongue. This can make it difficult for patients to chew, swallow, speak, and in some cases even breathing can become a challenge. Those who do experience macroglossia-related breathing difficulties are often unable to get restful sleep. This is because the enlarged tongue may force the individual to snore or breathe with their mouth open. Sleeping with the mouth open can lead to oral dryness and contribute to tooth decay.
Those with an overactive thyroid are more likely to experience a hastening of tooth decay. This may be caused by the excess utilization and burning of nutrients caused by increased thyroid activity. The increased rate of tooth decay seen in hyperthyroid patients may cause patients to experience sensitivity in the teeth, pain in the jaw, and accelerated molar degradation.
Improper Tooth Development
Children who have a thyroid issue may experience development issues pertaining to their teeth and jaw. Some outcomes include crowded teeth, premature eruption of permanent teeth, large gaps between teeth, enlarged or inflamed gums, gums extending between teeth, and increased occurrence of cavities. Parents who recognize that their child is experiencing pain or weakness in the jaw or abnormalities of the mouth should have their child’s thyroid assessed by a knowledgeable physician.
Protect Your Mouth by Supporting the Thyroid
Good oral hygiene through regular brushing and flossing is essential for maintaining a healthy mouth. However, protecting the thyroid and resolving any existing thyroid dysfunction is also important. The impressive impact of the thyroid on many areas throughout the body, including the mouth, makes it an essential system regarding individual wellness.
If you are suffering from a decline in oral health while also experiencing the common signs of thyroid disease such as fatigue, fluctuations in weight, and changes in mood speak with your doctor about having our thyroid tested. Resolving thyroid disease may not only alleviate dental distress but also improve overall wellness.
1. Kara Epperson. “Thyroid Disease and Its Effects on Your Teeth.” Corbet Locke, DDS.
2. AAS Staff. “The Effects of Thyroid Disease on Your Teeth.” Assure a Smile.
3. APC Staff. “Beware, Your Tooth Decay Might Be a Symptom of Thyroid Disease.” Active Physio Clinics.