Blog

How is Dry Mouth Related to Thyroid Disorders?

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a common complaint for many people with thyroid conditions. An estimated 50% of individuals diagnosed with dry mouth also have an underlying thyroid disorder as the cause.

While dry mouth itself is not dangerous, it can significantly impact daily functioning and quality of life. It also puts sufferers at increased risk of dental problems. Understanding the connection between thyroid issues and dry mouth is the first step to getting the right treatment and finding relief.

What Thyroid Conditions Cause Dry Mouth?

There are two primary ways that hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can trigger dry mouth:

  • Slowed metabolism – Having an underactive thyroid slows your metabolism and disrupts normal saliva production. Salivary glands do not receive adequate stimulation to release saliva, resulting in chronic dry mouth.
  • Damage to salivary glands – Both hyper and hypothyroidism can cause inflammation or autoimmune changes that directly affect the salivary glands. This impairs their ability to produce sufficient saliva.

While the exact mechanisms behind dry mouth and thyroid dysfunction are still being studied, there is a clear association between the two. Fortunately, many treatment options are available to help manage this troublesome symptom.

YOUR ROADMAP TO AVOID THYROID SURGERY

Symptoms of Dry Mouth Related to Thyroid Disorders

How do you know if your dry mouth could be linked to an underlying thyroid condition? Some of the most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Constant thirst or feeling like you have a dry mouth
  • Difficulty chewing, speaking, and swallowing
  • Burning, tingling, or numb sensation in the mouth
  • Red, cracked, or raw tongue
  • Sore throat or hoarse voice
  • Dry, sticky feeling in the mouth and throat
  • Cracked lips/mouth sores
  • Denture wearers experience more discomfort
  • Mouth breathing at night
  • Bad breath

If you experience these issues persistently, it is important to get evaluated by your doctor. Blood tests can determine if you have thyroid dysfunction contributing to dry mouth.

Impacts of Dry Mouth on Daily Life

Living with a constant dry mouth can have wide-ranging effects on physical health, emotional well-being, and social life:

Physical Effects

  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing foods
  • Impaired speech
  • Mouth sores and dental cavities
  • Weight loss or nutritional deficits
  • Sleep disruptions – dry airway causes sleep apnea

Emotional Effects

  • Increased anxiety or depression
  • Embarrassment about dry mouth symptoms
  • Low self-esteem related to dental/mouth problems

Social Effects

  • Avoiding social situations due to speech/eating challenges
  • Limited communication ability
  • Reduced quality of life

Seeking appropriate treatment can help minimize the daily impediments caused by thyroid-related dry mouth.

YOUR ROADMAP TO AVOID THYROID SURGERY

Diagnosing Dry Mouth With Thyroid Disease

If you suspect your dry mouth may be linked to a thyroid disorder, your physician can order blood tests to evaluate thyroid function. These typically include:

  • TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) – Elevated with hypothyroidism, low with hyperthyroidism
  • T3 (triiodothyronine)
  • T4 (thyroxine)
  • Thyroid antibodies testing for autoimmune thyroiditis

Based on your test results, your doctor can confirm if hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism or an autoimmune thyroid condition is behind your symptoms.

Treating Dry Mouth Caused By Thyroid Problems

The treatment approach will depend on the specific thyroid disorder and severity of dry mouth symptoms:

Hypothyroidism

  • Thyroid hormone replacement medication to raise thyroid levels
  • Saliva substitutes and mouth rinses
  • Sugar-free candies or gum to stimulate saliva flow

Hyperthyroidism

  • Antithyroid medications to lower thyroid hormone levels
  • Radioactive iodine treatment
  • Surgery to remove part of the thyroid (rarely needed)

Hashimoto’s disease

  • Levothyroxine to replace missing thyroid hormones
  • Medication to reduce autoimmune attacks on the thyroid

Graves’ disease

  • Antithyroid drugs to lower thyroid hormone levels
  • Beta-blockers to control symptoms
  • Radioactive iodine or surgery if first-line treatments unsuccessful

Medications:

  • Cevimeline (Evoxac®) – stimulates saliva production
  • Pilocarpine (Salagen®) – stimulates saliva production

Saliva Substitutes:

  • Biotene®, Oasis®, Optimoist® – moisturize the mouth
  • Xylitol lozenges – stimulate saliva flow

Lifestyle Changes:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Limit caffeine/alcohol
  • Use a humidifier
  • Avoid smoking, mouth breathing
  • Sugar-free gum/hard candies

With proper thyroid treatment, dry mouth symptoms often improve. However, additional medications or therapies may still be needed to manage oral dryness.

Preventing Oral Health Complications

A lack of saliva leaves the mouth vulnerable to cavities, gum disease, and infection. To minimize these risks:

  • Maintain good oral hygiene – brush twice daily, floss regularly
  • Use fluoride toothpaste and fluoride rinses
  • Avoid sugary foods/drinks
  • Have regular dental cleanings and exams
  • Use alcohol-free mouth rinses
  • Drink water frequently
  • Chew xylitol gum to stimulate saliva

Practicing diligent oral care habits can help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, and other problems exacerbated by dry mouth.

The Bottom Line

Dry mouth is a common and burdensome symptom for many thyroid patients. Hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and autoimmune thyroid disorders can all impair saliva production.

While dry mouth is not dangerous, it can significantly affect oral health, diet, sleep, and emotional well-being. Fortunately, various treatments are available to relieve symptoms once the underlying thyroid condition is properly diagnosed.

Consulting your physician for thyroid testing can help determine if dysfunction is behind your dry mouth complaints. With proper treatment, you can minimize the daily effects of dry mouth and improve your quality of life.

References

Dry Eyes and Mouth Causes and the Connection Between the Two

Can Thyroid Disease Cause Dry Mouth

How Thyroid Disease Causes Dry Mouth

Dry Mouth: Causes, Risks, and Treatments

Is your doctor recommending thyroid surgery?

GET A SECOND OPINION FROM AN RFAMD DOCTOR
say no to thyroid surgery book cover

Your guide to saving your thyroid — as told by the world’s leading surgeons and interventional radiologists.

I WANT THE BOOK

GET A SECOND OPINION FROM AN RFAMD DOCTOR

Explore a second opinion through our network of experienced professionals committed to innovative, minimally invasive thyroid treatments.

Second Opinion Form - Side CTA on Blog Page
I AM A PATIENT I AM A DOCTOR ESPAÑOL 🇪🇸 PORTUGUESE 🇧🇷 MANUFACTURER