The list of symptoms linked to thyroid disease is long. Weight fluctuations, hair loss, vision changes, skin problems, memory problems, sensitivity to hot and cold and menstrual disruption are just a few of the symptoms associated with thyroid problems. One often-overlooked set of symptoms is the problems thyroid disease can cause in the mouth. Thyroid hormone imbalance is behind several mouth and dental health issues.
Burning Mouth Syndrome
Some thyroid patients, especially women in middle age or in menopause, develop Burning Mouth Syndrome, or BMS. As the name suggests, BMS is characterized by a burning sensation on the tongue or the lips or involving the whole mouth. It may be accompanied by a bitter or metallic taste. Treatment for thyroid disease can improve the symptoms of BMS.
Decreased saliva production sometimes accompanies thyroid disease. Dry mouth may be caused by another autoimmune disease that accompanies the thyroid problem, such Sjogren's Syndrome, or it may appear on its own. Dry mouth itself can be an uncomfortable condition, but it also causes increased incidences of mouth sores, tooth decay and difficulty swallowing. Taking medication to balance thyroid hormone levels may reduce dry-mouth symptoms. If you still experience problems, your dentists can recommend both over-the-counter and prescription medications to treat dry mouth.
Special Concerns: Hypothyroidism
Patients with hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid, may experience macroglossia (enlargement of the tongue), gum disease, slow healing of mouth sores and, in children, delayed tooth growth. Problems with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) are common in patients with underactive thyroids; hypoglycemia can cause an increased risk of mouth and tooth infections.
Special Concerns: Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyoidism, or overactive thyroid, brings a different set of mouth and dental risks. Increased cavity development, enlarged extraglandular thyroid tissue at the back of the tongue and in the throat, rapid tooth growth in children and osteoporosis in the jaw are all risk factors. The incidence of BMS is higher in hyperthyroid patients than in hypothyroid patients, as is the rate Sjogren's Syndrome.
Talking to Your Dentist
If you have thyroid disease, it is important to get regular dental checkups and to talk to your dentist about your thyroid problem. Medications associated with secondary conditions of thyroid disease, such as heart problems, may affect the way you respond to anesthesia and may impact how your blood clots. Your dentist needs to know about these risks before performing any procedures.
Likewise, when your dentist is aware of your thyroid disease, he can become a partner in helping you manage it. Hormone-imbalance symptoms can be obvious to him when he is examining you, and he can alert you when it seems like you need to pay a visit to your primary care doctor to have your thyroid-hormone levels checked.
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