In the United States alone, an estimated 30 million men and women have thyroid disease. The disease, which often goes undiagnosed, interferes with your body’s ability to produce and regulate hormone levels. Females face a higher risk for the disease than males, with age and family history increase the risk significantly. Dr. Corbet Locke, a dentist in Waco, TX, discusses the impact of thyroid disease on your oral health.

Oral Health Symptoms Linked to Thyroid Disease

Gum disease: Because your thyroid affects your body’s ability to heal itself, thyroid diseases increase the risk of developing periodontal disease. Healthy gum tissue can regenerate, making it possible to reverse the effects of gingivitis, the mildest form of gum disease. When gingivitis becomes more severe, turning into periodontitis, the damage cannot be undone. Thyroid disorders compound the effect.

Dry mouth: Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is common in older patients and patients who have thyroid issues. Saliva protects the teeth and gums by gently rinsing away leftover food and bacteria, preventing plaque buildup, and providing nutrients. When the salivary glands become less active, the risk of tooth decay and gum disease increases substantially.

Macroglossia: Macroglossia, or an enlarged tongue, is common in patients who have thyroid disease. Dramatic swelling makes chewing, swallowing, and speaking difficult or uncomfortable. The condition also interferes with sleep patterns by making it difficult to breathe. The patient may snore or breathe with his or her mouth open, drying out the mouth tissues and increasing risk of tooth decay.

Awareness of all symptoms, including those that are less common, is helpful for early detection of thyroid disease. Burning mouth syndrome, for example, is self-explanatory and affects the tongue and mouth. A patient who has thyroid problems may also develop dysgeusia, a condition in which your sense of taste changes or becomes distorted. Someone with dysgeusia could have problems eating healthy foods, increasing their chances of having cavities or sensitive teeth.

Thyroid Disease Affects Children, Too

Although thyroid conditions are far more prevalent in adults, it is possible for children to develop the disease, too. A child whose thyroid function has been compromised may experience accelerated dental eruption. The permanent teeth erupt earlier and more rapidly than normal, interfering with their natural development and resulting in teeth that are neither fully formed nor sufficiently strong.

Although the presence of these oral symptoms may suggest the presence of a thyroid condition, only a physician or endocrinologist can perform blood work to diagnose thyroid disease and prescribe appropriate medications. If you take any medications for your condition, it is important to inform Dr. Locke or a member of our dental team.

Questions about oral-systemic health? To learn more about the effects of diseases on your teeth, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Corbet Locke, contact our Waco, TX dentist office at (254) 776-4888. We welcome patients living in McGregor, Hewitt, Woodway, Waco, and the surrounding areas.