Bad breath can be an indicator that something's going on in your mouth. Perhaps it's as simple as a few slices of pepperoni and onion pizza for lunch. Or maybe your oral care habits haven't been as consistent as they could be. Both are easily fixable. But what if your bad breath stems from something more complicated? If your breath smells like ammonia or you have an ammonia taste in your mouth, it may be a sign of a problem with your kidneys. Here's what you need to know about kidney functions and what having ammonia breath could indicate.
Ammonia Breath and Associated Health Concerns
To understand how kidney health relates to your oral health, it's best, to begin with a simple anatomy lesson. Humans have two kidneys. Both are about the size of a fist and located on either side of the spine just below the rib cage.
The kidneys are vital to your health as they remove waste products from your body. They filter the blood and help ensure any excess fluids leave the body through urination. They also perform other functions, such as controlling red blood cell production, releasing hormones to regulate blood pressure, and helping the body maintain healthy bones by producing vitamin D.
One of the products removed from the blood supply by kidneys is urea. When the kidneys fail to remove all of the urea, the urea breaks down into ammonia. Hence, the reason people with renal problems often have breath that smells like chemicals or ammonia breath. Additionally, the body is unable to absorb calcium properly as a result of kidney disease. Lack of calcium can lead to bone loss, impacting the jaws and the bone around the teeth.
Often something else going on with the body, including some other illness, results in kidney disease. Some of the common causes of kidney disease are:
- High blood pressure
- Autoimmune disorders like lupus
- An injury to one of the kidneys
- Certain medications
Ammonia breath will only subside once you treat the underlying condition. First and foremost, you need to seek the help of a medical professional. Until then, there are plenty of different ways to mask bad breath.
- Carry a toothbrush and toothpaste with you for on-the-go brushing.
- Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
- Avoid pungent foods like garlic and onions.
- Clean your tongue with a soft-bristled toothbrush or tongue scraper.
- Quit smoking and using tobacco products.
- Chew sugar-free gum.
Monitoring your overall health is the most important way to recognise that there might be something wrong. Your body could be providing clues. So, when you book an annual health screening with your primary care physician, go ahead and schedule regular dental check-ups at least twice a year. Talk to your dentist about developing a good oral care routine that includes brushing at least twice a day. Follow that up with regular flossing or cleaning between your teeth to remove food particles from spots a brush might not be able to reach.
Bad breath can be unappealing, but it is also treatable, even if there is a deeper issue causing it. Talk to your primary care physician and dentist as soon as possible if you notice ammonia breath, and they will be able to help come up with a treatment plan that's right for you.