Diseases and conditions can often affect other parts of the body than those primarily impacted. Issues involving the thyroid gland have been said to cause problems with tooth decay and overall dental health. Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) and overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can leave patients susceptible to poor dental health, as can the treatment for thyroid cancer. Below are some of the thyroid conditions that can lead to tooth decay.
An overactive thyroid gland is sometimes associated with advanced gum disease. Colgate notes that those with hyperthyroidism may have teeth that enter the mouth earlier than expected. The first, second or wisdom teeth can erupt sooner than usual.
Adults may have an enlarged tongue, difficulty maintaining healthy gums or may have difficulty with wound healing or the sense of taste. The Merck Manual states that hypothyroidism is more common in the elderly, but it is also usually easy to diagnose in children and young adults.
Hypothyroidism in Children
Children who suffer from hypothyroidism may have a wide variety of dental problems, including: malocclusion, or upper and lower teeth that do not align correctly; delays in teeth entering the mouth; a tongue that protrudes; swollen gums; and risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Colgate cautions that children with an underactive thyroid may or may not show these symptoms, depending on when the condition was diagnosed and its stage.
Thyroid conditions like cancer are sometimes treated with high doses of radioactive iodine. According to "Essentials of Thyroid Cancer Management", this treatment can cause gum pain and increased salivation. These symptoms may make a patient more susceptible to tooth decay, as any changes in salivation amount or composition can increase the risk of decay.
Tooth decay and thyroid problems may both have ties to fluoride. The U.S. National Research Council has stated that fluoride exposure can affect thyroid function, and fluoride was previously used to suppress thyroid activity. The Fluoride Action Network also notes that fluoride is most beneficial when it is applied directly to the teeth, rather than ingested. Further, it is noted that fluoride does little to prevent cavities on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Therefore, someone who ingests a great deal of fluoridated water may be at risk of developing thyroid problems, as well experience tooth decay.
At the Dentist
It is important to inform your dentist of your condition, as he or she may need to alter treatment to benefit you. You may not be able to receive local anesthetics containing epinephrine, as this chemical can cause cardiac problems during hyperthyroid episodes. Those suffering from hypothyroidism may also be sensitive to certain drugs used by dentists.
Remember to be open with your endocrinologist and dentist about any concerns you may have, so that you can be treated best by both doctors.
- Colgate World Of Care: Diabetes and Other Endrocrine Disorders
- Amdur, Robert J., and Ernest L. Mazzaferri. Essentials of Thyroid Cancer Management. Birkhauser, 2005.
- Fluoride Action Network; Health Effects: Fluoride & the Thyroid