If there's anything people universally dislike, it's bad breath. Nothing feels more gross — or more embarrassing — than having breath that smells terrible. Of course, this makes me wonder: What are the causes of bad breath? Sure, dental hygiene is without a doubt important, and if you skip brushing your teeth or flossing, your breath is almost certainly going to smell like yesterday's lunch (not to mention set you up for a slew of potential dental health related issues). And let's be real: Morning breath is totally a thing, and yes, there is nothing more humbling than waking up to your significant other and realizing their breath, too, smells like death in the morning.
So, at what point is bad breath an indication of a health problem? Well, it's important to remember that you can't diagnose yourself with things over the Internet, nor can you diagnose a health issue based off of just one symptom. However, bad breath can actually be a specific indicator of a lot of low-lying health problems that you may live with every day without realizing. If your bad breath is pervasive and the standard fixes aren't working, it's important to see a medical professional and get some insight. It's always a good move, too, to jot down other symptoms you may have, or if there are particular triggers or changes in your breath over time. Though this list certainly isn't all inclusive, here are some of the things your bad breath might be trying to tell you about your health:
1. You're Simply Dehydrated
Sometimes health issues are pretty simple fixes; for example, dehydration is a common cause of bad breath. When your body is dehydrated, it doesn't produce enough saliva. This impacts your breath because saliva has antibacterial properties in it, and if your body isn't producing enough of it, bacteria can overgrow in your mouth, causing the smelly breath. This is a reminder of why it's extra important to drink the recommended six to eight ounces of water per day.
2. You Might Have Gingivitus
Even if you're on top of your game with your oral hygiene, it's possible you can still develop gingivitis. Gingivitis occurs when the tissues surrounding your teeth (basically, your gums) become inflamed and irritated. Gingivitis is quite common, and a major sign is that your gums bleed or become swollen when you floss or brush your teeth. Another major sign of gingivitis is bad breath. In this case, bad breath results from the plaque and bacteria built up on the teeth and tongue that commonly occurs from gingivitis.
3. You Might Have Stomach Cancer
Before you freak out, remember: You can't diagnose anything just based on one symptom, including cancer. Stomach cancer is sometimes difficult to diagnose, because it often requires invasive procedures (such as endoscopies) for medical professionals to get the information they need from your body. Researchers are currently investigating, however, the role your breath may play in indicating stomach cancer. In layman's terms, the idea is that because your breath essentially "carries" up properties from your stomach, it's possible doctors can determine imbalances or warning signs based on your breath before they make the invasive move into your stomach.
4. You May Have Diabetes
Similar to our discussion of gingivitis, if you have diabetes, it's possible you experience some sour smelling breath. If you're diabetic, it's likely that your blood sugars aren't stabilized, which causes your body to be more susceptible to infections and illness. Diabetes also comes with dry mouth, furthering your chance of gingivitis. Now, if your breath has a sweet note to it, that's actually a concerning sign in diabetics, as it can be a sign of ketoacidosis, which is when your body doesn't have enough insulin and begins to use fatty acids for energy. These acids can accumulate in your blood and lead to death or coma.
5. You May Be Experiencing Kidney Failure
Kidney failure is no joke, you guys. It's a really serious health situation that occurs when your kidneys are no longer able to remove toxic chemicals and waste products from your blood. In their ideal state, your kidneys function to remove these chemicals from your blood by creating urine. However, when your kidneys are damaged or failing, these toxins and waste accumulate and can cause issues in every part of your body. For example, if you're experiencing kidney failure and have fish-y or urine-like scented breath, it may be a sign that your body is having respiratory problems.