Medically termed halitosis, bad breath can a result of several factors including dental disease, poor dental hygiene, oral infection, dry mouth, food consumed, or medication. Apart from these issues, certain health problems like respiratory tract infection, sinusitis, diabetes, and digestive, liver, and kidney disorders may also cause bad breath.1 So how does one identify and isolate the causative factor? Surprisingly, we may be able to determine the reason for bad breath depending on the nature of the smell. Listed below are some of the different types of bad breath smells and what they indicate.
1. Acetone Breath And Diabetes
Patients suffering from diabetes are at risk of developing a condition called ketoacidosis.2 Diabetic ketoacidosis can be fatal if not attended to immediately. Studies have identified the presence of acetone in the breath of individuals with this condition.3 Some of these patients have described the smell of their breath to be similar to that of acetone – a component found in nail polish. The smell has also been described by patients as being sweet or fruity.
2. A Fishy Odor And Trimethylaminuria
Apart from the obvious post-seafood fishy breath, it may also be an indicator of a genetic disease called trimethylaminuria. This condition is a rare metabolic disorder caused due to enzyme deficiency and leads to the production of excess trimethylamine in the system. The fishy odor it releases can be detected in body secretions like that of urine, sweat, and breath.4
3. Bad Breath And Respiratory Conditions
While morning breath is an extremely common condition, studies have found that respiratory conditions like sleep apnea, snoring, and asthma, can make it so much worse. This is because when people snore or sleep with their mouths open, they create the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. The air dries out the mouth and the decreased production of saliva helps bad breath causing bacteria to flourish.5
4. Foul Breath And Digestive Diseases
People suffering from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or other digestive diseases may also experience bad breath.6 Indigestion may cause bad breath as a result of food decay within the stomach. ‘Hunger breath’ is a foul smelling and acidic breath that occurs in people who are fasting or those who have skipped meals. This occurs due to increased acidity in the stomach and reduced saliva in the mouth.
5. Ammonia Breath And Kidney Failure
The primary function of our kidneys are to remove toxic substances from our blood stream and help us excrete them in the form of urine. But when patients suffer from kidney failure or renal disease, there occurs an accumulation of waste in the bloodstream. The buildup of waste in the blood (uremia) causes a multitude of symptoms including breath that smells like ammonia, fish, or urine.7 This odorous breath may also occur when the kidney failure begins to affect the respiratory system leading to breathing difficulties in the patient.
6. Bad Breath And Post Nasal Drip
Post nasal drip is a condition that occurs when excess mucus is produced by the nasal mucosa. This excess mucus accumulates in the back of the throat or nose. As a result of the action of anaerobic bacteria on the protein molecules of the accumulated mucus and phlegm, people may be able identify a smell originating from the back of their mouths. Individuals may experience a similar smell when dairy products are consumed as it increases mucus secretion.
|↑1||Spielman, A. I., P. Bivona, and B. R. Rifkin. “Halitosis. A common oral problem.” The New York state dental journal 62, no. 10 (1996): 36-42.|
|↑2||Diabetic ketoacidosis. MedlinePlus.|
|↑3||Shirasu, Mika, and Kazushige Touhara. “The scent of disease: volatile organic compounds of the human body related to disease and disorder.” The Journal of Biochemistry 150, no. 3 (2011): 257-266.|
|↑4||Mitchell, S. C., and R. L. Smith. “Trimethylaminuria: the fish malodor syndrome.” Drug Metabolism and Disposition 29, no. 4 (2001): 517-521.|
|↑5||Kleinberg, I., M. S. Wolff, and D. M. Codipilly. “Role of saliva in oral dryness, oral feel and oral malodour.” International dental journal 52, no. S5P1 (2002): 236-240.|
|↑6||Moshkowitz, M., N. Horowitz, M. Leshno, and Z. Halpern. “Halitosis and gastroesophageal reflux disease: a possible association.” Oral diseases 13, no. 6 (2007): 581-585.|
|↑7||Davies, Simon, Patrik Spanel, and David Smith. “Quantitative analysis of ammonia on the breath of patients in end-stage renal failure.” Kidney international 52, no. 1 (1997): 223-228.|