What does bad breath say about your health?

Oral infections can cause bad breath. However, if your dentist has ruled out other causes and you brush and floss every day, your bad breath could be the result of another problem, such as a sinus condition, acid reflux, diabetes, or liver or kidney disease. In this case, see your healthcare provider. If your breath smells metallic, you may have bacteria growing below the gum line, which can lead to inflammation and even infection.

Your dentist might call it periodontitis. You're more likely to have it if you smoke or don't brush your teeth or floss regularly. Gum disease can also run in families. If bad breath is accompanied by a sour taste or burning in the chest, it could be a problem related to acid reflux or GERD.

Uncontrolled diabetes can cause a dangerous health condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. Among other symptoms, it can cause your breath to smell sweet or fruity. Using a preprogrammed electronic nose, which detects different profiles of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled breath, researchers from the University of Latvia examined breath samples from 475 subjects, including 252 patients with lung cancer, 223 patients with different lung conditions and healthy volunteers, 265 smokers and 210 non-smokers. If you have this condition, fruity breath may be a sign that your body uses fat for fuel instead of sugar (glucose).

Because it's difficult to assess how your own breath smells, ask a close friend or family member to confirm that you're concerned about bad breath. The byproduct of that process are ketones, which can cause your breath to smell fruity, says Dr. Shilpi Agarwal, a doctor in family medicine and a specialist in integrative medicine in Washington, DC. Other medications, such as nitrates that treat heart conditions, chemotherapy for cancer, and some sleeping pills, release chemicals that can make your breath smell bad when they break down in the body.

The researchers then used mass spectrometry technology to analyze breath samples for signs of heart failure related to molecular and chemical compounds. People who snore tend to have this problem more often than those who breathe normally while they sleep. These bacteria cause the release of volatile sulfuric compounds (VSC), gases that cause breathing problems. Some people worry too much about their breath even though they have little or no smell in their mouths, while others have bad breath and don't know it.

Researchers from Haifa (Israel) analyzed breath samples from 484 people who had fasted for 12 hours and had avoided smoking for at least 3 hours before the test. Smelling your own breath is surprisingly difficult, but there are a few ways to check if your breath is less than fresh. Your mouth can get dry if you snore or sleep with your mouth open, and that makes it an even better home for the bacteria that cause “morning breath.” Breathing may be affected by bacteria, which occur with these seasonal problems, or by the dry mouth that accompanies extended periods of breathing through the mouth when the nose becomes congested. However, sometimes they can irritate the throat and bacteria can grow in them; that's what makes your breath smell bad.

A very stinky smell, much worse than traditional bad breath, Katz says, could be a sign of a lung problem that ranges from infection (such as pneumonia) to cancer. If something blocks the flow of waste through your intestines, your breath may start to smell like faeces.

Aimee Janoski
Aimee Janoski

Devoted bacon scholar. Professional internet practitioner. Lifelong web evangelist. Typical tvaholic. Passionate internet enthusiast.

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