When you develop unusual breath, it could be an indication of an underlying health problem. For example, a fruity smell is associated with diabetic ketoacidosis. If you have an odor that smells like ammonia, it could be a sign that you are suffering from kidney disease. Bad breath could also occur as a result of taking certain types of medications such as metformin. Even diabetes can cause bad breath. Bad breath, which is scientifically known as halitosis, can affect a sufferer’s self esteem. While there are many factors which can contribute to bad breath, brushing regularly and talking to your dentist or doctor can help prevent it. You want to ensure you eliminate plaque build up, gum disease, or bacteria growth, which can also contribute to bad breath, before you consider other treatment options.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition where a patient is unable to produce enough insulin or their body becomes resistant to it. Insulin is a natural hormone that is made by the beta cells located in the pancreas. This hormone helps glucose enter the cells where it is stored or converted into energy. In people with diabetes, the body either produces too little insulin or none at all. This means that glucose remains in the bloodstream. Hence, they experience high levels of blood sugar. If left untreated, too much sugar in the blood can lead to serious long term problems, such as kidney problems, blindness, or nerve damage. Even though diabetes has no cure, it can be managed through a proper diet plan, regular exercise, and taking medication.

Diabetes and bad breath

If you have bad breath, it does not imply that you are diabetic. However, there is a relationship between diabetes and bad breath that you should know about. In patients with diabetes, high levels of blood sugar can increase the amount of glucose in the saliva. Bacteria in the mouth will feed on glucose, which increases plaque build up. If the plaque is allowed to build up, it may lead to gum disease or other issues. It could also be a sign you are suffering from another serious condition, such as diabetic ketoacidosis.

Causes of diabetes and bad breath

If you have diabetes and bad breath, halitosis could be as a result of gum disease or a high amount of ketones in the bloodstream. In gum disease, which is also known as periodontal disease, the bacteria normally attack the bone and tissue that hold your teeth into position. Inflammation as a result of periodontal disease can negatively affect metabolism and increase the level of blood glucose in people with diabetes. High blood sugar levels in people with diabetes can damage the blood vessels. This may affect the flow of blood to your gums, which exposes them to risk of infection, ultimately leading to bad breath.

People with diabetes do not produce enough insulin, hence, their bodies cannot absorb glucose properly. As a result, their body starts breaking down fat for energy. When fat is burned instead of glucose, it produces ketones. An overload of ketones in your body can lead to bad breath. If left untreated, high ketone levels can lead to a serious condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis.


There are various steps you can take to treat or prevent bad breath as a result of diabetes.

  • Drink enough water
  • Floss your teeth once daily
  • Use antiseptic mouthwash to rinse your mouth
  • Avoid smoking tobacco
  • Clean your dentures or braces regularly
  • Maintain an optimal blood glucose level
  • Keep your mouth moist by chewing gum
  • Brush your teeth at least twice every day

Sometimes brushing your teeth regularly cannot prevent the risk of having bad breath. That is why it is important to visit your dentist at least twice every year, so that they can identify if you are suffering from gum disease or other issues. Your dentist will also provide you with useful information on how you can prevent bad breath in the future.

Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.