The ketogenic diet has created buzz in the health community and for good reason. Many have found success in restricting their carb intake so that the body burns fat instead of glucose to lose weight. If you're following a keto diet, you might notice some unpleasant side effects that accompany the positive changes on the scale. For example, so-called ketosis breath is a common complaint. Understanding keto breath is the first step to ensuring your diet doesn't impair your oral health.
Ketosis Breath: When Your Diet Affects Your Oral Health
If a lower-carb lifestyle is supposedly healthy, then why does it result in foul-smelling breath? The answer is in how your body breaks down fats. After swapping a typical carb-heavy diet for one that promotes fats and protein, your body goes into ketosis. As the University of California, San Francisco explains, ketosis is a process wherein your body begins to burn fat for energy, since glucose stores (your body's preferred source of energy) aren't readily available. While in ketosis, your body converts fat cells into three types of ketones, which are fat byproducts. One of these ketones, called acetone, is essentially unusable for your body's energy stores. Therefore, your body releases it via your urine and lungs, notes Medscape. It's acetone that gives your breath that distinctive "ketosis" smell, which, according to Medline Plus, can be compared to an overly sweet, fruity scent.
When swapping carbs for healthy fats and proteins, your body undergoes several changes. While ketosis breath is often associated with a low-carb lifestyle, the diet may also have a positive effect on your oral health. After all, in avoiding carbs, you're also avoiding processed sugars, which the American Dental Association counts among the worst foods for oral health. Because oral bacteria thrive on sugar, reducing your sugar intake may reduce cavities.
A low-carb diet may also help reduce inflammation. A study in BMC Oral Health found that a diet low in carbohydrates and high in omega-3 fatty acids resulted in lower rates of gingivitis and inflammation in patients. So while going low-carb may make your breath smell, it may actually help improve your overall oral health.
If you've noticed that you have keto breath and you still want to continue your keto diet, consider some of these methods to deal with the smell:
- Chew sugar-free gum to help stimulate saliva and freshen your breath.
- Adjust your intake of complex carbohydrates, such as leafy green vegetables and whole grains, while continuing to avoid refined carbs.
- Fill a water bottle and sip throughout the day.
- Continue good oral health habits. A keto lifestyle, while beneficial for oral health, is not a substitute for daily brushing and flossing.
- Add fresh herbs to water and tea. Herbs such as clove, cinnamon, mint and fennel are natural breath fresheners.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.