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Updated on August 16, 2022

Keto Diet and Dental Health

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The “keto” diet is a popular type of low-carbohydrate, high-fat, and high-protein diet. Many people use it to lose weight fast.3

It's important to understand that any drastic change in your diet will affect your dental health. 

salad and avocado with flowers placed on wooden table

How the Keto Diet Works

The word “keto” is short for ketogenic. This describes diets that put your body into a metabolic state called ketosis

The human body is designed to burn carbohydrates for energy. When carbohydrates aren’t available, the next source of fuel for energy is fat. 

As the body burns fat for energy, it creates molecules called ketones as a by-product.

Too many ketones in the body can be dangerous. Most doctors recommend using these diets as short-term options only. 

Some people adapt relatively quickly to a state of ketosis, but others do not. You must be careful when changing your body’s metabolic state.

While a keto diet is a good way to burn some extra fat, it can be harmful to some people. 

If you want to choose a keto diet, make sure you speak with your doctor to ensure it won’t adversely affect your overall health.

How the Keto Diet Affects Dental Health

Since keto diets are low- to no-carb diets, they are pretty good for your teeth. 

Carbohydrates are the favored fuel source of cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth. 

This is especially in the simple carbs like refined sugars in:

  • Sodas
  • Sweets
  • Chips
  • Crackers

These bacteria can use complex carbohydrates. However, it takes longer for them to break down the larger molecules.  They like simple sugars as a fast and easy source of fuel. 

The way these bacteria form cavities is by ingesting the simple carbs and creating acids as a by-product.  When this acid sticks to the tooth in the bacteria-containing dental plaque, it softens and weakens enamel.  That’s how bacteria get inside a tooth in the cavity process.

Keto diets significantly reduce the fuel for cavity-causing bacteria. So, they are good for your teeth.  They even lower your risk for cavities.

How the Keto Diet Affects Your Breath

One of the phenomena associated with ketosis is something called “keto breath.” 

When a ketogenic diet leads to high amounts of ketones in the body, your body’s two excretion methods (getting rid of them) are exhalation and urination. 

These ketone molecules have a very distinct smell. You may notice a change in your breath and your urine. 

Some people describe keto breath as having a sickly sweet smell. Others notice a smell more similar to acetone. Acetone is used in nail polish remover.

This change in your breath is a red flag that your body is in a state of ketosis.  For many people, this is no problem.

But for others, it can be dangerous.  Just make sure your body can handle being forced into a different state of metabolism before you stick with the keto diet.

This type of “bad” breath does not start in the mouth. Instead, it comes from the molecules released into your lungs. As such, there isn’t much you can do about it. 

Mouthwashes or breath sprays only cover up keto breath.

We recommend avoiding any products with alcohol. These products usually have a drying effect and will make your breath worse. 

Make sure you stay well-hydrated. This prevents you from developing a dry mouth on top of keto breath.

Does the Keto Diet Cause Dry Mouth?

Some symptoms can suggest that you've entered ketosis, including dry mouth and increased thirst.7

Other symptoms of ketosis include frequent urination and decreased hunger or appetite.

Make sure you stay well-hydrated. This helps prevent you from developing a dry mouth on top of keto breath.

What’s the Takeaway?

  • Keto diets are a great short-term diet option for healthy people. 
  • You must check with your doctor to make sure your body can handle ketosis. 
  • Your teeth will not suffer any damage. However, your breath might.
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on August 16, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Woelber, J P et al. “An oral health optimized diet can reduce gingival and periodontal inflammation in humans - a randomized controlled pilot study.” BMC oral health vol. 17,1 28. 26 Jul. 2016
  2. Batch, Jennifer T et al. “Advantages and Disadvantages of the Ketogenic Diet: A Review Article.” Cureus vol. 12,8 e9639. 10 Aug. 2020
  3. Masood W, Annamaraju P, Uppaluri KR. Ketogenic Diet. [Updated 2021 Aug 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-
  4. Crosby, Lee et al. “Ketogenic Diets and Chronic Disease: Weighing the Benefits Against the Risks.” Frontiers in nutrition vol. 8 702802. 16 Jul. 2021
  5. Oh R, Gilani B, Uppaluri KR. Low Carbohydrate Diet. [Updated 2021 Jul 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan
  6. Scardina, G A, and P Messina. “Good oral health and diet.” Journal of biomedicine & biotechnology vol. 2012 : 720692
  7. Bostock, Emmanuelle C S et al. “Consumer Reports of "Keto Flu" Associated With the Ketogenic Diet.” Frontiers in nutrition vol. 7 20. 13 Mar. 2020
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