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What Does Bad Breath Have to Do with Diabetes?

12 months ago

5262  2
Posted on Oct 18, 2017, 9 a.m.

Some doctors and clinics are using new infrared devices to find people with pre- or early stage diabetes simply by mechanically “smelling” their breath

“Halitosis” the medical name for bad breath is an old but accurate way of diagnosing several different potentially harmful diseases. A sweet smell, like fruit is a sign of ketosis (see below). An ammonia smell can indicate kidney problems. Anorexia nervosa gives off a foul fruity odor. Other odors can be associated with liver problems, lung cancer, asthma, or cystic fibrosis.


Using familiar technology like alcohol breath analyzers, some doctors and clinics are using new infrared devices to find people with pre- or early stage diabetes simply by mechanically “smelling” their breath. 90 percent of bad breath odors are composed of gas from Sulphur compounds (H2S, CH3SH, CH3SCH3), produced by oral bacteria. These devices contain a semi-conductor gas sensor sensitive enough to equal gas chromatography units which are both incredibly expensive and only used in large science labs.


Periodontitis, gingivitis, and other periodontal diseases are inflammatory diseases of the mouth and can be the result of diabetes or bacterial infections and can give off their own distinct odors. They can also affect one’s metabolism, increasing blood sugar and making diabetes even worse. One can actually make the other worse. Diabetes and periodontal disease can also affect or worsen cardio vascular disease and stroke. Diabetics heal slower that non-diabetics and therefore the mouth infections and periodontitis may persist for years. Signs of oral infection include: red, bleeding, tender, or sensitive teeth and/or gums.

Bad breath can be reduced with the following steps:

  1. No smoking
  2. Drink lots of water
  3. Visit dentist or physician for medication if needed
  4. Brush and floss teeth, gums, and tongue twice a day
  5. Monitor and control blood sugar
  6. Sugar-free mints or gum increase saliva and help with smells
  7. Keep dentures (if worn) clean and well fitting; removing them at night


One of the most severe problems with diabetes is peripheral vascular disease, the damaging of blood vessels thereby reducing blood flow throughout the body; particularly in the heart, legs, and arms. When blood flow is reduced in the mouth there may not be sufficient resistance to bacteria and infection therefore creating bad breath. Excess glucose in the mouth from diabetes will do the same.


Excess ketones make your breath smell like nail polish, and are created when your body starts burning fat when cells aren’t getting enough glucose due to diabetes and hypo-glycemia. This can occur on high-protein or low carb diets, or from keto-acidosis in diabetics. Diabetic Keto-acidosis (called DKA) is a very dangerous condition and requires immediate attention! Signs are:

  1. high glucose levels (measured by glucometer),
  2. mental confusion, headache, light headedness
  3. frequent urination
  4. fruity breath
  5. shortness of breath
  6. abdominal pain
  7. nausea or vomiting


Last, but not least, be aware of your breath, ask loved ones to help you, especially if you smell fruity or like nail polish, it may be a sign of gum disease or an impending sugar crisis, take immediate action.

Loesche, W. J., & Kazor, C. (2002). Microbiology and treatment of halitosis. Periodontology, 28(1), 256-279.

Oral health: Working to improve oral health for all Americans at a glance 2016. (2016).

Singh, B., & Singh, R. (2013). Gingivitis–A silent disease. IOSR Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences, 6(5), 30-33.


By: Dr. Michael J. Koch, Editor for and Dr. Ronald Klatz, DO, MD President of the A4M which has 28,000 Physician Members, and has trained over 150,000 physicians, health professionals and scientists around the world in the new specialty of Anti-Aging Medicine. A4M physicians are now providing advanced preventative medical care for over 10’s of Million individuals worldwide who now recognize that aging is no longer inevitable.

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