How is Bad Breath Linked to Diabetes?

how is bad breath linked to diabetes

Some novel studies have linked bad breath to diabetes. It is possible for your breath to reveal some clues about your health. Take for instance;

  • An ammonia smell indicates kidney disease
  • A sweet, fruity smell points to ketoacidosis (acute complication of diabetes).
  • A very foul, fruity odor may hint at anorexia nervosa.

READ ALSO: 10 Effective Home Remedies to Eliminate Bad Breath

Other diseases like lung cancer, asthma, liver disease, and cystic fibrosis, can cause different odors on the breath. Bad breath, also called halitosis, may point to diabetes. Researchers have found that prediabetes can be identified using infrared breath analyzers.

What Causes Bad breath in Diabetes?

There are two main causes of diabetes-related halitosis:

  • periodontal disease
  • high levels of ketones in the blood.

Periodontal diseases

Periodontal diseases or gum diseases, include mild periodontitis, advanced periodontitis and gingivitis. These diseases causes bacteria to attack the tissues and bone that support your teeth. Inflammation can affect metabolism and increase your blood sugar, thereby aggravating diabetes.

Bad breath is a common sign of periodontal disease. Other accompanying symptoms include bleeding gums, red or tender gums, receding gums, and sensitive teeth

Diabetes can lead to periodontal diseases which can further worsen problems for people with diabetes. Heart disease and stroke are both complications of diabetes. These have also been connected to periodontal disease.

READ ALSO: Diabetes: All You Need to Know

Diabetes can destroy blood vessels and cut blood flow throughout your body, including your gums. Your gums and teeth may get more susceptible to infection if they aren’t receiving a proper supply of blood. Diabetes can increase glucose levels in your mouth, thereby stimulating the growth of bacteria and bad breath. High blood sugars in the blood makes it difficult for the body to fight infection, which makes it harder for the gums to heal.

If someone with diabetes gets a periodontal disease, it may take longer to heal than in a person without diabetes.


So, how is bad breath linked to diabetes? Your body cells find it difficult to receive the glucose they need for fuel when your body can’t produce insulin. This causes your body to start burning fat. Burning fat instead of sugar produces ketones, which accumulates in your blood and urine. Ketones can also be produced when you’re fasting or if you’re on a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, although not to the same level as they are in diabetic ketoacidosis.

READ ALSO: 15 Effective Ways to Prevent Diabetes

High levels of ketone often lead to bad breath. One of the ketones called acetone (a chemical found in nail polish), can cause your breath to smell like nail polish.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a dangerous condition can occur when ketones rise to hazardous levels. Symptoms of DKA include:

  • sweet and fruity odor on your breath
  • shortness of breath
  • frequent urination
  • abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting
  • high blood glucose levels
  • confusion

DKA mostly occur in people with type 1 diabetes whose blood sugars are left uncontrolled or unchecked.

Managing Bad Breath Caused By Diabetes

Periodontitis is a common complication of diabetes. However, you can take steps to prevent gum diseases or to reduce their severity:

  • Floss daily and brush your teeth at least twice a day.
  • Brush or scrape your tongue daily.
  • Avoid smoking
  • Drink lots of water to keep your mouth moist.
  • If you wear dentures, make sure they fit well and take them out at night Maintain normal blood sugar levels.
  • Use sugar-free mints or gum to stimulate saliva.
  • Ensure the dentist knows you have diabetes.
  • Your doctor or dentist may prescribe a medication to stimulate the production of saliva.


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