Low Carb Diets and Bad Breath

There are always going to be debates about which diets work the best for weight loss. Low-carb diets are very popular right now, as evidenced by the increase of trends such as the Atkins and Paleo diets. “Ketogenic” is a term for a low-carb diet, where you get most of your calories from protein and fat, and fewer from carbohydrates. When dieters keep their carbohydrate consumption below a certain level, they cause their bodies to enter a metabolic state of ketosis, which burns fat instead of glucose for energy. As a part of that fat-burning process, your body makes “ketones”.

Unfortunately, ketones (the byproducts of breaking down fat) get released in your breath, which some people call “keto breath”. Keto breath often creates an unpleasant fruity smell that is unusually strong. It is not only possible to smell it, but also to taste it, and a metallic, dry-mouth feeling tends to occur as well.

That’s also just part of the problem.

A low-carb diet results in a loss of water in the body in the early stages, and the dry mouth that ensues not only contributes to your bad breath, it also creates an unhealthy environment for your teeth and gums. Most importantly, a dry mouth encourages the production of potentially harmful bacteria, which can cause significant damage to your gums and teeth if left unchecked.

So what’s a low-carber to do?

If you’ve noticed keto breath, but want to stay on your low-carb diet, here are a few ideas to try for freshening your breath (and protecting your teeth and gums):

  • Grab some sugar-free gum to chew to help stimulate salivation and freshen your dragon breath.
  • Sip on water throughout the day to keep your mouth hydrated.
  • Continue to avoid simple, refined carbohydrates, but add in a few complex carbs, such as whole grains and leafy green veggies.
  • Brush and floss regularly, of course. Just don’t brush too often, as that can irritate the gums instead of helping.
  • Add some fresh herbs to your tea and water. Herbs such as mint, clove, and parsley are often considered natural breath fresheners.

Some good news:

While keto breath and dry mouth can be unpleasant and even damaging to your teeth, a low-carb diet may also have some positive effects on your dental health. The most obvious is the reduction of processed sugars in your diet, which the American Dental Association rates among the worst foods for oral health. Since oral bacteria thrive on sugar, a reduction of sugar in your diet can reduce cavities. In addition, a low-carb diet can result in a reduction in inflammation in the body, and inflammation in the body can contribute to periodontal disease.

So hats-off to those of you striving for a healthier, leaner body. A low-carb diet, properly supervised by medical professionals (including your dental team), can be a successful part of that journey, as long as you remember to protect your teeth and gums, AND you keep your breath fresh as well.