Hypothyroidism is a disease that slows your metabolism. When most people think about metabolism they think about how the body burns calories. But metabolism affects more than that, including bone formation around dental implants. However, having slow metabolism or hypothyroidism doesn't mean you can't have dental implants.

According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, the risk of implant failure is not any higher for medically controlled hypothyroid patients than others who do not have the disease. However, roughly 13 million Americans have undiagnosed thyroid disorders.

If you have hypothyroidism — or believe you may have the disease but have not been diagnosed yet — and you are considering dental implants, the key for a successful outcome of the series of procedures is for your hypothyroidism to be medically controlled. Here's what you need to know about how hypothyroidism affects dental implants.

What hypothyroidism is

The thyroid is located in the low part of the front of your neck. It produces hormones that are released throughout your body and controls how your body uses the energy it gets from your diet, which is called metabolism. As mentioned earlier, most people think of calorie burning when they think of metabolism, but it affects other things such as your body temperature, heartbeat, and how quickly your bones heal.

Having an underactive thyroid means having a slow metabolism. Depression, dry skin, hair loss, constipation and fatigue are other common symptoms of hypothyroidism. If you are someone who has always thought of yourself as having a slow metabolism, it's important to a doctor for a medical diagnosis before getting dental implants.

How hypothyroidism affects your bones

When the thyroid hormone is produced in normal levels, it helps in the production of growth and binding proteins that are necessary in the bone healing process. Therefore, a reduction in thyroid hormone from an underactive thyroid will inhibit fracture healing and bone growth. If you've ever had a broken bone, this could very well explain the slow healing process you may have had.

This is important to understand regarding dental implants because implants are surgically placed into the bone and require the natural process of bone growth, or osseointegration, in order to heal properly. In simple terms, osseointegration is the process in which the bone will naturally grow around the implant. This growth is what stabilizes the implant. If osseointegration does not occur, it can cause dental implants to fail.

Medically control your hypothyroidism

To be considered a good candidate for dental implants, your hypothyroidism will need to be under control. Diagnosis is achieved with blood work which includes a thyroid lab panel to check for levels of TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) and T4 (thyroxine). If diagnosed with hypothyroidism, your physician will start you on prescription medication to control your thyroid. You will need regular thyroid lab panels to ensure your metabolism is controlled before you can get dental implants.

Discuss your condition with your oral surgeon

Tell your oral surgeon that you have a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. That way, he or she will be able to determine the best way to prepare your bone for your dental implant. You will likely need to undergo a bone density scan of your jawbone to determine if your bone is strong enough for a dental implant. If not, you may need bone grafting.

Bone grafting entails taking bone tissue from another bone, such as your hip, to strengthen your jawbone. Given that bone healing may be impaired if your thyroid hormones are not under control, you'll want to be sure to take your hypothyroid medication as directed before, during, and after your dental implant procedures.