The thyroid – a tiny, but mighty gland, is responsible for so much more than the speed of your metabolism. This butterfly shaped gland located in the neck (below the Adam’s Apple and above the collar bone) belongs to the endocrine system, meaning it secretes hormones.
Thyroid hormones are essential for optimal whole-body wellness; every single cell in the human body contains thyroid hormone receptors. When you have thyroid disease, the thyroid hormone levels are too high or too low and it can develop mild to life threatening symptoms ranging from head to toe.
Working as a team with the pituitary gland and hypothalamus in the brain, the thyroid modulates energy production, metabolic rate, central nervous system functioning, cognitive health, mood, bone growth, muscle development, heart rate, body temperature, digestive function, and overall hormone balance.
Common symptoms indicating an under-active thyroid or hypothyroidism:
- Weight loss resistance/unintentional weight gain
- Fatigue, weakness
- Cold hands and feet
- Brain fog
- Hair loss
- Brittle nails/dull skin
- Goiter (swelling of thyroid gland)
- Mood changes (anxiety, depression)
- Elevated cholesterol
- Muscle pain
- Joint aches
- Changes in menstrual cycle/fertility
Common Hypothyroidism Oral Health Problems
- Gum disease
- A long-winding recovery from mouth sores
- Dry mouth causing tooth infection and tooth decay
- Tongue enlargement (macroglossia)
Hashimoto's disease vs. Hypothyroidism: Related yet different
Oftentimes, hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s are used interchangeably, but they are in fact different (yet related) conditions.
Hypothyroidism is a diagnosis that refers to a state of low thyroid hormones in the body. Causes can vary from widely, ranging from congenital hypothyroidism, surgery, medication, nutrient deficiencies, or other hormonal imbalances, such as disruption of the sex hormones or stress hormones. However, the most common cause (estimated 80-90% of cases of people with Hashimoto develop hypothyroidism) is due to a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (also referred to as Chronic Lymphocytic Thyroiditis or autoimmune thyroiditis).
Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disease. With autoimmunity, the immune system is malfunctioning or imbalanced, and antibodies have been created to attack another part of the host’s body, which in the case of Hashimoto’s, it’s the thyroid gland. Depending on the duration and severity of the inflammation, the thyroid may be damaged to the point of causing hypothyroidism.
It’s important to know for certain whether or not your hypothyroidism is caused by an immune system imbalance, such as Hahsimoto’s, or another root cause so you can seek proper treatment. The first step to take is proper and comprehensive screening with blood tests. Below is an image showing a full thyroid panel, with the last two markers being antibodies that can be tested to confirm Hashimoto’s - Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPO Ab) and Thyroglobulin Antibodies (Tg Ab).
Treatment through medication and lifestyle change
Many conventional doctor’s, including Endocrinologists, do not routinely screen for Hashimoto’s simply because it will not change their course of treatment. If low thyroid hormones are detected, regardless of the root cause, the standard treatment is hormone replacement therapy using a synthetic T4 medication and regular blood work checking TSH levels and Free T4.
In combination with conventional treatment, a functional medicine approach that incorporates nutritional and lifestyle changes is the best methodology to effectively manage and resolve symptoms of both hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s. Functional Medicine Doctors, Naturopathic Doctors, or Registered Dietitians specializing in thyroid health are excellent options when it comes to seeking a practitioner that will offer a whole-body, natural approach with less side effects.
How to choose oral care products for hypothyroidism
If you are dealing with hypothyroidism, using a fluoride free toothpaste formula can be beneficial in further protecting your thyroid gland. The products have to be gentle on gums but effective in remineralizing teeth to prevent tooth infection and cavities. We recommend choosing a toothpaste with nano-hydroxyapatite, as it is the only scientifically proven fluoride comparable that can improve the oral representation of hypothyroidism.
- Fluoride free formula: Research has shown that consuming as little as 2-5mg of fluoride (about the amount of water you drink in fluoridated water) over a few months can lower thyroid functions
- Gentle products: avoid products with SLS, charcoal, preservatives, sweeteners, and strong flavors that can irritate gums and teeth
- Nano-hydroxyapatite can improve dry mouth, because it can remineralize teeth by directly bound to the enamel unlike fluoride that needs calcium from saliva to remineralize teeth
- Nano-hydroxyapatite is is scientifically proven, comparable alternative to fluoride that will prevent tooth infection and cavities while alleviating teeth sensitivity
- Seek out oral microbiome friendly ingredients like 9x roasted Korean bamboo salt that can improve gum disease and mouth sores
About the author
Lisha Knicely is a Registered Dietitian and Integrative & Functional Practitioner specializing in hypothyroid conditions. Being a Thyroid Warrior herself, Lisha understands what it's like to both live with and treat this common yet complex condition. Lisha's approach is comprehensive and holistic in nature; taking into consideration the immense positive impact that lifestyle and nutritional changes have for managing endocrine and metabolic disorders, like hypothyroidism. Being a part of and serving this community is a true passion for Lisha making her work both enjoyable and extremely rewarding.