What Causes Bad Breath in Children?

Posted Apr 25th, 2018 in Health & Nutrition, General Information, Pediatric Dentistry

What Causes Bad Breath in Children?

It happens to the best of us – occasionally, we all have less than pleasant breath! This is true for children as well. Learn about the causes of bad breath in children, and how it can be prevented.


Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is something that even healthy children sometimes experience.

If you are concerned that you child’s breath is not as fresh as it should be, the first step is to determine the cause. The following are some of the most common causes of bad breath in children, and some suggestions for how to deal with them.

Problem: Poor Oral Hygiene

The most common cause of bad breath in children is insufficient dental hygiene. If your child does not brush and floss often enough or for long enough, bad breath can start to develop. Bacteria and plaque on the teeth, gums and tongue can all cause bad breath.

Solution:

Children should brush twice a day, for two minutes at a time and with proper technique. They should also floss once a day at a minimum. It’s also important that children have regular visits to the dentist’s office for a professional cleaning.

Problem: Dry Mouth

Saliva helps to cleanse the mouth of food particles and plaque. If there is insufficient saliva flow in your child’s mouth, bad breath causing bacteria can develop up more readily.

Solution:

Make sure your child drinks enough fluids throughout the day, and that she is properly hydrated. This will help keep saliva flow healthy.

Problem: Mouth Breathing

Mouth breathing can cause the mouth to become dry, leading to bad breath. Mouth breathing usually happens when a child has a stuffy nose as a result of allergies or a cold.

Solution:

If the mouth breathing is the result of a cold or allergies, the bad breath should clear up when the cold or allergy does. If these issues are not the problem, then there may be an underlying medical or dental condition causing mouth breathing, so you should make an appointment with a doctor.

Problem: Bacteria on the Tongue

Odour-causing bacteria mostly live on the tongue. If your child is not brushing is tongue as well as his teeth, this could result in bad breath.

Solution:

Show your child how to brush his tongue, in addition to his teeth. Mouth wash can also help eliminate this problem.

Problem: Oral Health Problems

Bad breath can also be the result of tooth decay or gum disease.

Solution:

Good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist prevent cavities for the most part. If your child has developed dental decay, it can cause bad breath, and a trip to the dentist is in order to get it fixed. This is important not just in the prevention of bad breath; untreated cavities can cause a lot of pain, and even tooth loss, eventually.

Problem: A Foreign Object in the Nose

Very young children sometimes put small objects up their noses (typically small pieces of food or tiny toys), and this can cause bad breath in some cases.

Solution:

If you suspect that your child has a foreign object lodged in his nose, get him to the doctor as soon as possible so that the object can be removed.

Problem: Strong-Smelling Foods

Just like adults, when children consume strong-smelling foods on a regular basis, bad breath can be the result. Foods like onions, garlic, curry and other spices can all cause bad breath.

Solution:

Bad breath caused by specific foods will eventually go away by on its own. In the meantime, if you child is old enough, sugarless gum or mints can help, and so can eating fibrous foods like apples, or chewing on fresh mint.

If your child has bad breath regularly as a result of the food he is eating, a modification to the diet may be the most realistic solution.

Problem: Medications

Some medications cause a chemical reaction in the body that can result in bad breath.

Solution:

You can talk to your child’s doctor about other alternatives to this medication. However, once the prescription is complete, the bad breath will fade away.

Problem: An Illness or Medical Condition

Certain health problems can result in bad breath. Anything from allergies, to a sinus infection or tonsillitis can cause bad breath.

Solution:

Visit the doctor with your child to find out if there is a medical condition that needs attending to. The doctor will prescribe medicine to help heal the problem.

If you have more questions about bad breath in children, please contact our Burnaby children’s dentists for advice.

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