What does halitosis smell like?

Sometimes, halitosis can be easily attributed to something you ate. It is understandable that your breath will smell like garlic for the hours after you eat garlic, for example. Sometimes, however, bad breath can indicate a medical condition, which may be serious. The type of bad breath you have can help your doctor determine any underlying medical issues, so, if you have any of the types of halitosis outlined below, see your dentist and your medical practitioner to address the bad breath and the underlying issue.

Breath that smells sulfuric, resembling the smell of rotten eggs, may indicate a problem with the digestive tracts. When healthy gut microbes break down sulfur, this releases sulfur-smelling gas. This may be caused by GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is caused by stomach acids seeping back up from the stomach into the esophagus, or it may indicate other concerns with the digestive system.

If your breath smells sweet or fruity, this may indicate ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a serious complication of diabetes, usually type 1 diabetes. When the body produces insufficient insulin, as with diabetes, the burning of fats produces ketones. The smell of ketones may resemble acetone, with a sharply fruity aroma. This sharply fruity, acetone aroma may also be caused by chronic kidney failure, which may also be a symptom of diabetes.

Microbial buildups, infections, or growths in the sinuses may cause the breath to have an aroma of fungus or mold. Sinus infections may cause a post-nasal drip of thick, darkly colored mucus that seeps from the sinuses into the back of the throat. When this post-nasal drip builds up and combines with microbes, food particles, and metabolites, this can lead to foul-smelling breath. Treating the sinus infection and preventing the post-nasal drip usually reduces or eliminates the odor.

If your breath smells like feces, it is possible that you have an intestinal blockage or bowel obstruction. This occurs when feces back up in the digestive system, preventing the intestines from processing waste. If you are constipated and your breath smells like feces, it is imperative that you seek immediate medical attention, as it is likely that you have a bowel obstruction or intestinal blockage.

Finally, breath that has a fishy smell may indicate kidney damage. Kidneys remove toxic chemicals from the blood and turn them into urine, which is then naturally released from the body. If the kidneys sustain significant damage, they may lose the ability to filter these toxins from the blood, allowing waste and toxins to build up in the body and leading to fishy-smelling breath.

While strong oral hygiene habits and dietary changes, including quitting smoking, may help clear up halitosis, there are some types of bad breath that may indicate a larger health issue. Your dentist can help determine what underlying issues may be causing your bad breath and can refer you to the proper medical practitioner. In this way, dentists are the first line of defense in maintaining health, not only oral health. Be sure to see your dentist every six months for regular checkups, and schedule an appointment for an examination sooner if you notice any of these unusual types of bad breath. In most cases, early intervention can make a world of difference.

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