Four smells in the mouth that could signal serious health issues

This Morning: Dr Chris warns bad breath can indicate diseases

Most people practise good oral hygiene to prevent issues such as bad or smelly breath.

And while not brushing your teeth properly can be a cause of halitosis, there are a number of associated medical conditions to be wary of.

With this in mind, an expert spoke with about different smells the mouth produces and what they could mean.

Dentist Neil Sikka, from Bupa Dental Care, warned of four specific types of smell to look for.

Bad breath

The medical term for bad breath is halitosis, which is thought to affect around one in four people.

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Neil said: “Persistent bad breath can be caused by multiple factors, including poor oral hygiene, tooth decay, gum disease, or underlying medical conditions such as respiratory infections or diabetes.

“Like snoring, we may underestimate its importance, but it’s always best to have this checked out.”

Sweet breath

Fruity breath is one sign of ketoacidosis, which can occur in diabetics.

The NHS describes this odour as similar to “pear drop sweets or nail polish remover”.

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Neil explained: “Breath with a fruity or sweet odour may indicate uncontrolled diabetes, and those who experience this will need to see their GP.

“People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing gum disease and infection may increase your blood sugar levels.”

Other signs of ketoacidosis include:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Needing to pee more often
  • Stomach pain, feeling sick or being sick
  • Diarrhoea
  • Breathing more deeply than usual
  • Feeling tired, sleepy or confused
  • Blurred vision.

“The symptoms usually develop over 24 hours, but it can be faster,” the NHS says.

Ammonia-like breath

This could be a sign of something potentially fatal, according to Neil.

“Breath that smells like ammonia or urine can be associated with kidney or liver problems,” he said.

The National Kidney Foundation warns that ammonia breath is a common sign of a “more advanced”, “chronic” kidney disease.

Neil continued: “Poor oral health is linked to a rise in liver cancer – and when the liver is affected by disease, its function will steadily decline.”

Other signs that something is wrong with your liver include:

  • Feeling very tired and weak all the time
  • Loss of appetite – which may lead to weight loss
  • Loss of sex drive (libido)
  • Yellow skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Itchy skin
  • Feeling or being sick.

Foul or metallic breath

This odour should prompt a visit to a doctor or dentist, Neil said.

He added: “A foul or metallic odour in the breath might be a sign of underlying medical conditions, such as digestive problems, respiratory infections, or symptoms arising from certain medications.

“If you’re noticing such an odour, it’s better to be safe and have this examined.”

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