What Are The Symptoms & Health Risks of Bad Breath?


This may sound like a “no brainer” because you may think that bad breath is obvious to the person who has bad breath.

That is not necessarily the case.

You may have cupped your hands and blown into them to try and determine if your breath smells, but that does not work because your body will naturally acclimatize to its own odor.

This is necessary so that the sensory system will recognize odors that are external to the body.

If this is the case, then you need to look at external symptoms:

 • Do you experience nasal drip?
• Do you have allergies?
• Do you have a chronic dry mouth?
• Do you experience a sour taste in your mouth?
• Do you have a coating on your tongue?
• Do your friends offer you gum or breath mints?
• Do strangers turn their heads away when you speak?

These may sound very basic questions but if you answered yes to any of them there is a good probability that you have a problem with bad breath.

If you answered any of them with “I don’t know,” you need to become pro-active and observe if any of the conditions apply to your situation.


Certain breath odors may be symptomatic of health issues which require immediate attention.

Odd odors. 

For instance if the odor smells “fruitlike” this may indicate that your body is trying to expell acetone. This conditions occurs because of a process called ketoacidosis.

Ketoacidosis happens when insulin is not present in the body.

If insulin is not present, body fat is substituted for the insulin, and when metabolized, ketones invade the bloodstream. This condition can result in a diabetic coma and should be considered life-threatening.

If you have ever had a tube inserted in your stomach through your mouth or nose, you may have experienced “fecal odor” in your breath. This can also occur when there is a bowel obstruction or prolonged period of vomiting.

An ammonia or fishlike odor can be associated with chronic kidney failure also known as chronic renal failure.

Drug abuse. 

This is a sad footnote to our culture today. In years past this subject wouldn’t even be considered in a guide such as this.

A study conducted in 2003 revealed that 12.3 million Americans 12 years old and over tried methamphetamine at least once. This number is staggering when you consider that represents 5.2% of our population.

Not only are the health risks tremendous but the damage to the teeth is often irreversible. Dentists have reported that the teeth of methamphetamine users are described as rotting, black, stained and literally falling apart and crumbling.

The drug is highly acidic and reduces the production of saliva. Users tend to grind their teeth and crave sugar in any form.

The drug also remains in the system for up to 12 hours prolonging the exposure during a period when the user probably will not even consider brushing or flossing. Removal of the teeth is often the only course of action.

Eating disorders. 

We have mentioned that vomiting is a known cause of bad breath. Hand in hand with vomiting are potentially dangerous disorders such as bulimia and anorexia.

Bulimia involves the practice of repeated binge eating followed up by self-induced vomiting called “purging” and is normally done secretly.

The reasons for engaging in this practice are different for each participant. However, it is generally accepted by the medical community that those who suffer from bulimia eat for “comfort.”

They use food as a therapy and consume large amounts to induce inner feeling of well being. It appears to temporarily drive away feelings of anger, loss, sadness and other negative, human conditions.

Each time they binge, they need to purge so they can recapture the emotional band-aids they get while binging. It is an extremely dangerous practice.

The purging process is also accomplished by fasting, taking diet pills or using diuretics. Not only does the practice rapidly deplete the body of natural resources, it also creates a dry mouth situation which causes bad breath.

If you know of someone who you suspect may be on a damaging “binge eating” program watch for the signs of bad breath as well. If you suspect they may be engaged in this behavior, intervention may be in order.

Anorexia is also extremely harmful. While it may manifest itself in some of the same ways as bulimia, it is different in that the victim has a fear of weight gain and even the slightest ounce of body fat just can’t be tolerated. Rather than binging and purging, purging is the tool of preference for people who suffer from anorexia.

Body piercing. 

Our purpose of discussion that relates to body piercing is obviously directed toward oral piercing. It is not our intent to make any judgment of the practice, merely to point out some of the risks involved as well as bad breath resulting from the practice.

The most obvious risk factor is infection which can occur when there is a lesion on any part of the body. However, as we know that the mouth is the perfect environment for bacteria to grow, whether it is “good” bacteria or “bad” bacteria.

You might think that the risk is greater at the time of piercing and that would be correct. However, continual handling of the jewelry after placement greatly increases the odds of infection down the road.

Oral piercing may also put you at risk for blood contamination and increase the possibility of hepatitis B, C, D and G.

Damage to the blood vessels in the tongue or cheek can induce prolonged bleeding and in some cases nerve damage can occur.

Just having the jewelry in the mouth can damage the soft tissue around the teeth causing the gums to recede.

Constant clicking of the jewelry against natural and/or restored teeth can cause the enamel or veneers to crack or chip.

Oral jewelry can also create more saliva than is necessary. Some people have reported problems with speech and a pronounced reduction in the ability to pronounce words properly. Others say that their ability to chew was impaired.

Another worse case scenario is the risk of having the jewelry dislodge causing a dangerous choking situation or even swallowing the jewelry and having it end up in the digestive tract which is dangerous itself.

Finally, there is no doubt that having a foreign body in your mouth is going to create bad breath. Keeping the area around the piercing 100% clean 100% of the time is impossible.

It only takes a few tiny particles lodged in or around the entrance and exit of the jewelry stud to create bad breath. And, that’s even before you add in the factors discussed above.

So, if you do choose to engage in the practice prepare yourself for some pretty hefty maintenance and the possibility of infection or even worse circumstances.

These examples are not the norm, of course, but if you do experience any of them, it would be prudent to contact a physician especially if they replace previously normal breath odor.