With roughly 1.5 million Americans diagnosed each year, diabetes remains a silent killer, as early symptoms are often easy to miss. Interestingly, your breath could be warning you that something’s going on in your body. One of the many potential causes of bad breath, also known as halitosis, includes diabetes.
So, What is Diabetes?
The latest statistics noted by the American Diabetes Association reveal that approximately 34.2 million (10.5%) Americans had a diagnosis of diabetes in 2018. Plus, a whopping 88 million (34.5%) individuals aged 18 years or older have prediabetes in the U.S.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body has too much blood sugar (glucose) within the bloodstream. Some of the most common types of diabetes that you may have heard of include Type 1 and Type 2. In Type 1 diabetes, the body is blocked from producing insulin, which is normally released by the pancreas to absorb the sugar from the foods you eat for energy. Therefore, treatment involves taking insulin each day to help keep blood sugar levels under control. Type 1 is believed to be caused by an autoimmune response. On the other hand, individuals with Type 2 diabetes suffer from inadequate amounts of insulin release, or their bodies no longer appropriately respond to the action of insulin. Fortunately, Type 2 diabetes can be prevented with healthy lifestyle habits, including exercise, a healthy diet, and practicing good oral hygiene! Diabetes can have a negative, and sometimes life-threatening impact on major organs, including your heart, kidneys, and eyes.
Bad breath, a possible early sign of diabetes?
Individuals with diabetes may experience bad breath for several reasons which may be detected early. Early diagnosis and treatment of pre-diabetes and diabetes is important for early management and to lower the risk of detrimental complications to your overall health. Some of the common causes of bad breath in pre-diabetic/diabetic patients can include periodontal disease or ketoacidosis:
- What some people may not know is that diabetes can impact your oral health, and vice versa! This two-way relationship has been shown in several studies revealing a significant link between uncontrolled diabetes and the more severe form of gum disease, periodontitis, as well as severe gum disease being associated with high blood sugar levels.
- Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that involves oral bacteria which attack the oral tissues and bone that surround your teeth. Other systemic diseases, like heart disease and strokes, are linked to both diabetes and periodontal disease. Bad breath is a common sign of periodontal disease, and is typically a result of the bacteria within the mouth that produce volatile sulfur compounds. If blood sugar levels are not controlled, periodontal disease can progress and lead to tooth loss.
- One of the complications of diabetes is ketoacidosis. This condition occurs when the body does not have enough insulin, which leads to certain cells not receiving enough energy from the uptake of sugar.
- This causes your body to break down fat for energy, which consequently makes a high amount of acids in the blood called ketones. A high amount of ketones in your body can lead to bad breath, and you may notice a smell similar to nail polish. Once reaching an unsafe level, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) occurs, which can present with a sweet and fruity odor on your breath, frequent urination, trouble breathing, confusion, abdominal pain, nausea, and/or vomiting. This condition can be life-threatening, and immediate medical attention is necessary if you experience these symptoms.
Take a look at some of the other associations between diabetes, oral health, and bad breath:
- Diabetics may experience dry mouth, which can also cause bad breath. Your saliva does more than you may think! Without saliva, acid produced by oral bacteria can attack the surfaces of your teeth and lead to tooth decay/cavities. Not to mention, saliva helps wash away leftover food particles that the bacteria feed on. To fight dry mouth, stay hydrated with water. Chewing xylitol sugar free gum can also help stimulate saliva production. Dry mouth may also be a result of certain medications, including those taken for diabetes. Be sure to keep your dentist in the loop regarding all of your current medications.
Greater Risk of Infections:
- Individuals with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing infections due to a weakened immune system. Plus, uncontrolled diabetics may experience slow wound healing due to poor circulation from high blood sugar levels. It is especially important to stay healthy and keep your immune system strong during these unprecedented times. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals with Type 2 diabetes are considered at a high risk for experiencing illness from COVID-19. Make sure to continue practicing social distancing, proper hand-washing and disinfecting, and wear a face covering to help fight coronavirus.
- In addition, people with diabetes may be at a higher risk of developing an oral yeast infection, also known as oral thrush. Oral thrush often appears as a white coat on the tongue or inside of the cheeks and can result in uncomfortable mouth sores and ulcers, along with a foul odor and taste. Your dentist will be able to diagnose oral thrush and offer treatment recommendations.
Remember, your oral cavity is a window to the rest of your body so be sure to take care of it! Your body may be showing you small signs that relate to a bigger health issue. Keep up with your regular dental appointments and practice good oral hygiene at home. When tooth brushing, don’t forget to brush your tongue, which is a common ground for odor producing bacteria.
This pandemic has impacted us all, but our community is indeed all stronger together. Our team at WDG always has your safety and health as our top priority, and we have implemented additional safety measures and equipment to help prevent the transmission of all infections, including COVID-19. Wellesley Dental Group has completely reopened since June 8th, 2020 for all dental procedures and cleanings! Thank you for entrusting your health and dental care to us at Wellesley Dental Group.
Feel free to contact Drs. Ali & Ali and the caring team at Wellesley Dental Group if you have any thoughts or concerns; they will be happy to answer your questions! Contact us today at 781-237-9071 or firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment.
Your little ones and teens are welcome to visit our pediatric dentist, Dr. Derek, and Dr. Emad is happy to help with your TMJ and orthodontic needs. For wisdom teeth extractions or any other oral surgery needs, Dr. Stephens would love to help, and our gum-specialist Dr. Singh can help with your gum-related concerns.