Not-so-minty-fresh breath? It’s most likely down to something you ate or because you haven’t brushed your teeth properly, you’d think. But occasionally, particular smells carried on the breath point to serious health problems.
Almost all bad breath odours are caused by anaerobic bacteria living in the back of the tongue, throat and tonsils, which break down the proteins in our food as part of their daily job. However, when someone isn’t entirely healthy, it can be harder for these bacteria to break down these proteins as they should, leaving particular chemical smells behind.
Go through this checklist before you approach your GP or dentist for an opinion.
IF YOUR BREATH SMELLS OF PEAR DROPS IT COULD BE: DIABETES
One of the tell-tale signs of undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes is the faint smell of pear drops, or ammonia, on the breath. This occurs because a lack of insulin means the body can’t use sugar for energy and starts to break down the fat instead.Waste products called ketones build up and are exhaled.Freshen up: See your GP for a urine test, particularly if you have excessive thirst, extreme tiredness, unexplained weight loss and the need to pass urine more frequently.
IF YOUR BREATH SMELLS OF MOTHBALLS IT COULD BE: SINUS
People with sinus problems often emit a scent reminiscent of mothballs. This is because the mucus formed when you have a stuffy nose or congested throat contains very dense proteins. It is these proteins, which are hard for the body to break down, that contain that very distinctive odour.Freshen up: Try over-the-counter decongestants or see your GP if you think you may have sinusitis.
IF YOUR BREATH SMELLS OF SOUR MILK IT COULD BE: DUE TO DIET
High-protein, no-carb diets can leave you with foul-smelling breath.Again, as with diabetes, it’s those ketones that are to blame. As the body has fewer carbs to turn into energy, it begins to burn fat and proteins. In this instance, the proteins consumed from a no-carb diet produce this unpleasant smell. Freshen up: No amount of brushing, flossing or mouthwash can get rid of this particular smell, so you might want to reintroduce more carbs into your diet.
IF YOUR BREATH SMELLS OF ROTTING FLESH IT COULD BE: TONSILLITIS
When tonsils are infected and inflamed, it makes it difficult for the anaerobic bacteria at the back of the tongue to break down chemicals as usual. Sulphur-producing bacteria breed deep in the tonsils, and the infected ones can’t break it down.It’s this sulphuric smell that makes the breath smell so bad when someone is suffering from tonsillitis or tonsil stones. In rare cases, this smell could also indicate cirrhosis of the liver.Freshen up: Most cases of tonsillitis clear up without treatment within a week. In the meantime, drink plenty of water and try gargling with a mild antiseptic solution.
IF YOUR BREATH SMELLS OF MORNING BREATH IT COULD BE: XEROSTOMIA (DRY MOUTH)
No one’s mouth smells as fresh as a daisy when they wake up, but if normal brushing doesn’t alleviate the problem, then there might be another underlying cause. Some people suffer from Xerostomia, or dry mouth, where the saliva isn’t flowing as it should. A lack of saliva can cause bacteria to build up, leading to bad breath. Unless saliva levels are brought back to normal, the consequences of Xerostomia are potentially long term and serious, usually involving tooth decay and gum disease.Freshen up: People suffering from dry mouth will often experience other symptoms, such as unrelenting thirst, chapped lips andor cracked mouth corners, sore throat and a burning sensation on the tongue.If you have these, see your GP and make sure you drink plenty of water.
IF YOUR BREATH SMELLS OF FISH IT COULD BE: KIDNEY PROBLEMS
Nitrogen is the main culprit when it comes to giving out fishy smells.If your breath has a fishy odour, your kidneys might be to blame. If your kidneys are not functioning properly, there will be a build-up of nitrogen.Freshen up: See your GP who can arrange a kidney function test.
IF YOUR BREATH SMELLS OF FAECES IT COULD BE: INFECTED GUMS
Rotting tissue can mimic the smell of faeces because of the production of chemicals by anaerobic bacteria.”The number-one infection in modern humans is infected gums. So the smell of faeces can just as easily come from a lack of flossing as from a blockage in the bowel.Freshen up: Make sure you floss and brush carefully twice a day. Visit your dentist or hygienist regularly.
HOLD YOUR BREATH, DARLING
By the time, Clark Gable was 32, he had dentures thanks to acute gum problems during child hood. The pin-up star struggled with stubborn halitosis, putting off his leading ladies. “Kissing Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind was not that ex citing,” co-star Vivian Leigh once said.