There is a commonly held association between diabetes and bad breath; however, the breath odor directly caused by diabetes is not the same as halitosis in the usual sense. Diabetics experience an unusual odor, often described as a sweet or fruity odor, on the breath when they are suffering from ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a severe life threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.
In an undiagnosed diabetic child bad breath caused by ketoacidosis may be the first sign of serious disease. Ketoacidosis is most often seen in Type I diabetics, individuals whose pancreas does not produce enough insulin to allow their cells to take in glucose for metabolism (also the most common form of childhood diabetes). When cells need energy but cannot get it because of lack of insulin, the body attempts to rectify the situation by breaking down fat instead. The metabolism of fat produces acidic ketones, which build up in the bloodstream making it more and more acidic. The body tries to get rid of some of the ketones by expelling them in the urine and in the breath. This is what gives rise to the association between diabetes and bad breath.
When ketoacidosis is the cause of either adult or child bad breath, the breath odor problem is insignificant compared to the danger posed by the building acidity in the blood. Other symptoms of ketoacidosis include thirst and frequent urination, fatigue, nausea, aching muscles, sleepiness, coma, and rapid breathing. If you have, or suspect you have, diabetes and bad breath is associated with any of these symptoms, seek medical attention urgently.
It’s possible, of course that one might have diabetes and bad breath that is not caused by ketoacidosis but arises from some other underlying problem. If ketoacidosis can be ruled out, treat the problem as would any healthy person: consider whether there is any acute or chronic infection that might be causing the trouble. Are you feeling well? Sinusitis, gum disease, throat infection, deep abscesses and malignancies can all cause both adult and child bad breath.
If there is no obvious underlying health problem that needs to be addressed, many of the products on the market today for treating chronic and uncomplicated halitosis are safe and appropriate for those with diabetes and bad breath. Consult your doctor before using anything that might affect your blood sugar levels and, of course, when treating a case of uncomplicated child bad breath, make doubly sure that a chosen breath product is safe for them.