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Ammonia Breath And Associated Health Concerns

Bad breath can signal that something is happening in your mouth. Perhaps it's just the lingering effects of those few slices of pepperoni and onion pizza you had 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, this could indicate a problem with your kidneys. Here's what you need to know about kidney functions and the possible implications of having ammonia breath.

The Function of the Kidneys

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 important 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.

Kidney Disease and Oral Health

Urea is one of the products that kidneys remove from the blood supply. 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, kidney disease prevents the body from absorbing calcium properly. A lack of calcium can lead to bone loss, impacting the jaws and the bone around the teeth.

Ammonia Breath Causes and Treatments

Kidney disease is often the result of something else going on in the body, including other conditions. Some of the common causes of kidney disease are:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • 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 when something might be wrong. Your body could be providing clues. So, when you book an annual physical 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 develop a treatment plan that's right for you.

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