Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Bad breath can be caused by certain medications
Bad breath can be caused by certain medications

Halitosis, known better as 'bad breath', is sometimes associated with diabetes, as are several dental and oral conditions. It is quite simply breath with an unpleasant odour.

There is no one single cause of halitosis but rather a range of factors or causes that could produce bad smelling breath.

Having bad breath can have knock on effects, such as loss of self-esteem and even contribute to depression.

How common is bad breath

The causes of bad breath are wide reaching and often are linked to bad oral hygiene, although there are some medical conditions, including diabetes, that make sufferers more susceptible.

However, because the causes are so common, bad breath is also very common, and many people suffer from it. A large portion of the population will have experienced it at some point.

Because of high glucose levels, diabetics of both types may be more prone to halitosis.

Bad breath and diabetes

Often bad breath is caused by a  build up of bacteria in the mouth. This is because as bacteria digest glucose or food particles, they can release foul smelling gasses.

Because bacteria feed on glucose, high blood sugar levels can cause them to grow. Saliva may contain higher than normal amounts of glucose in diabetics with hyperglycemia, so the bacteria are persuaded to grow.

This can lead to tooth decay or gum disease, also known as periodontal disease or gingivitis.

Diabetes can also cause ketoacidosis, which is where the body uses fats instead of glucose if there is too little insulin in the blood, or if insulin resistance is too high. This causes acidic molecules, known as ketones, to form as a waste product.

The ketones can be excreted on the breath, causing the breath to have a scent similar to pear drops.

Some people report having bad breath as a result of taking metformin.

If you take metformin and think it is causing you to have bad breath, contact your diabetes healthcare team for advice on any alternative medications available.

Preventing bad breath

The best way to prevent bad breath is to fight the build up of bacteria in your mouth by having a good dental hygiene regime. Ensuring you brush your teeth at least twice a day and visiting the dentist regularly will help this.

Furthermore, avoiding sugary foods and drinks will help to prevent the growth of bacteria as they will have less glucose to feed off.

And finally, maintaining good control of blood sugars will prevent hyperglycemia and stop excess saliva glucose which can also feed bacteria.

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