Can Diabetes Cause Bad Breath?

Diabetes and bad breathGarlic and onions aren’t the only causes of bad breath. Did you know that chronic bad breath, also known as halitosis, is also a common problem for diabetics?

Noticing an unusual fruity scent is actually a tell-tale sign of untreated diabetes. This is just one of many ways a patient’s breath can give great insight into what is going on in the body. In observance of National Diabetes Awareness Month, Dr. Anthony Dailley explains more about the connection between diabetes, bad breath, and oral health.

The Basics of Diabetes

Diabetes is a metabolic disease where the body is either unable to produce any or enough insulin, resulting in elevated blood glucose levels. There are two types of diabetes — type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 frequently occurs in children or young adults and is characterized by an immune system malfunction. With this type of diabetes, the immune system will mistakenly attack beta cells that are responsible for the production of insulin. Without insulin, the body cannot process glucose that is used for cellular energy. Genetics play a large role in a young person’s chances of developing Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes develops when insulin is produced, but the body is unable to use it properly. Known as insulin resistance, this occurs when the cells become less sensitive to insulin.  As a result, the insulin to be less effective at lowering blood glucose levels.  The development of type 2 diabetes is associated with many lifestyle choices. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, family history of diabetes, and more.

Whether the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or is unable to use insulin properly, the effects can be disastrous for your health. Virtually everything we consume is metabolized into glucose that is used for energy. Without insulin effectively working to help cells take in glucose,  the cells are starved of energy. This can result in several health complications including:

  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Eye damage
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Hearing impairment
  • Poor blood circulation resulting in limb amputation
  • Skin conditions (bacterial infections)

Diabetes and Bad Breath

A health consequence that doesn’t typically come to mind when it comes to diabetes is bad breath. Many doctors consider the mouth the window to the rest of  the body, so it’s no surprise that a systemic disease like diabetes would have an effect on oral health.

Bad breath may occur in diabetics for two main reasons:

Acetone Breath:

When the body is deprived of glucose, it will end up burning fat for energy instead. Ketones including acetone, hydroxybutyrate, and acetoacetate are produced as a result of fat metabolism.

When these ketones are produced,  they will eventually build up in the blood and urine. High levels of ketones are known to cause bad breath. Acetone, in particular, is known to cause a nail polish-like odor.

High levels of ketones may lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a life-threatening condition. Some symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include:

  • High blood sugar level
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fruity breath odor
  • Shortness of breath

Periodontal Disease

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, the relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease goes both ways. Patients with diabetes are at a higher risk for developing periodontal disease because they are more susceptible to infections. Infections are more difficult for diabetics to fight due to a reduction of blood flow throughout the body. This also makes it more difficult to heal.

Conversely, periodontal disease may make controlling blood glucose levels problematic. When periodontal disease becomes severe, it can increase blood sugar levels. Patients with diabetes and periodontal disease should be especially aware of their health because their risk for complications is significantly higher.

Dental Health Tips For Diabetic Patients

Some of the best ways to take care of your oral health and to minimize your risk for diabetic complications related to periodontal disease include:

Following a Strict Oral Hygiene Routine: Are you brushing and flossing as much as you should? Brushing twice a day, and flossing at least once per day, is any easy way to remove plaque and food particles that can cause dental health problems.

Avoid Smoking: Avoid “smoker’s breath” by cutting out cigarettes. Doing so will not just improve your breath but it will also improve your overall health.  In addition, smoking causes blood restriction, which can further increase your risk for infection.

Visit Your Dentist: No matter the dental health issue, you want to catch problems early on. Going to the dentist every six months can help your dentist spot issues before they become severe.

Stay Hydrated: Drinking enough water will benefit your entire body. It is especially important for your oral health because it helps to wash away food particles, and encourages the production of saliva. Saliva is key to a healthy smile because it neutralizes acids in the mouth that can contribute to enamel erosion and tooth decay.

Contact Our Office in Berkeley

Both nondiabetic and diabetic patients should make oral health a priority. We offer a variety of services to address your dental concerns. Whether you’re looking for dental implants or treatment for severe halitosis, we’re here to treat your specific concerns. To learn more about the dental services we offer, contact our office today to schedule your no-obligation consultation with Dr. Dailley.