Hypothyroidism refers to an underactive thyroid. Symptoms can include weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, dry skin, and voice changes. It can also put you at risk of developing oral problems such as dry mouth, cavities, and periodontal disease. Here are some dental care interventions your dentist may recommend to help promote optimal oral health and discourage the progression of hypothyroid-related oral health problems.
Treating Salivary Gland Dysfunction
Hypothyroidism and other autoimmune disorders can lead to salivary gland dysfunction. This can cause dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, dental decay, and gum disease. When your salivary glands don't produce enough saliva as a result of hypothyroidism, oral bacteria can proliferate inside your mouth. Adequate saliva production is essential to your oral health because it helps wash away the germs that can cause cavities and gingivitis.
As part of your dental care routine, your dentist may recommend getting more frequent teeth cleanings, chewing sugarless gum to promote salivary flow, and drinking plenty of water. Your dentist may also prescribe an alcohol-free or enzyme-based mouthwash to help keep your oral tissues from drying out.
Burning Mouth Syndrome
Low thyroid function can also cause a condition called burning mouth syndrome (BMS). Symptoms of BMS may include burning sensations on your lips, tongue, the roof of your mouth, and gums. Dental care treatment options for burning mouth syndrome may include artificial saliva preparations, anesthetic or numbing oral rinses, and using a mild toothpaste that does not contain strong flavors such as peppermint or cinnamon.
Your dentist may also recommend certain dietary interventions such as avoiding acidic foods and drinks and avoiding alcohol because it can further irritate your oral cavity and increase the burning sensations of BMS. Your dentist may also refer you to your physician to help ensure that your hypothyroidism is well-managed. When you take your thyroid replacement hormone medications as prescribed, your symptoms, including your oral symptoms may improve.
Some people with BMS avoid brushing and flossing their teeth because of severe pain, which can increase their risk for oral infections, abscessed teeth, and periodontitis. Regular dental care appointments will help keep your teeth and gums healthy despite your thyroid condition.
If you have hypothyroidism, see your dentist and hygienist on a regular basis for routine dental care such as teeth cleanings and dental check-ups. Maintaining a good routine of oral care not only helps keep cavities and gum disease at bay, but it can also enhance your overall state of health.