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9 Causes of Bad Breath in Children

Bad breath, medically known as halitosis, is a condition that even healthy children can sometimes experience. If you've noticed that your little one's breath is not so pleasant, there is hope. When it comes to bad breath in children, improper oral hygiene is often the culprit. Learn the nine causes of bad breath to figure out what to do next.

What Causes Bad Breath in Children?

Several factors could contribute to bad breath. Here are several of the most common causes:

  1. Poor oral hygiene. If your child doesn't clean their teeth thoroughly or frequently, bad breath can result. If plaque is not brushed away, it can irritate the gums, causing additional issues.
  2. Dry mouth. Saliva helps to cleanse the mouth. When your child's mouth produces less saliva than usual, xerostomia — dry mouth — may occur, contributing to bad breath.
  3. Mouth breathing. When a child breathes through their mouth (due to a stuffy nose or as a sleep habit), it prevents saliva from washing away bacteria, leading to bad breath.
  4. Bacteria on the Tongue. The tongue can also harbor bacteria that produce foul odors and bad breath, so ensure your child cleans their tongue as well.
  5. Infections in the mouth. Cavities, plaque buildup, mouth sores, or oral surgery can also contribute to bad breath. This is just one reason why seeking professional dental treatment is important if your child develops these issues.
  6. A foreign object. Sometimes a baby or toddler will place a foreign item (tiny toys, food, etc.) in their nose. A foreign object lodged in the nose can cause bad breath in children.
  7. Certain foods. If your child consumes foods with a strong odor, like garlic, onions, or specific spices, it can impact the breath.
  8. Medications. Sometimes, the way medication breaks down in the body can lead to bad breath. This process releases chemicals that may result in bad breath.
  9. An illness or condition. Allergies, a sinus infection, tonsillitis, or another condition can cause bad breath too.

How to Avoid Bad Breath

Healthy teeth are integral to a child's overall health and well-being. You can help your child avoid bad breath by developing an oral care routine.

  • Have your child brush twice a day with a pea-sized amount of ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste to promote fresh breath. Always remember to supervise young children so they do not swallow the toothpaste.
  • When your child brushes their teeth, make sure they also clean their tongue, as bacteria can collect and grow on the tongue.
  • Clean between their teeth with floss, a flosser, or an interdental brush to remove odor-causing food particles from the teeth.
  • The best kids' toothpaste for bad breath is one made for their size.
  • Replace your child's toothbrush every few months because worn bristles cannot effectively remove plaque and debris from the teeth.
  • Avoid halitosis and other oral health concerns by scheduling regular checkups and professional cleanings with a dentist.

Chronic Bad Breath

Most of the time, your child's bad breath will go away once you implement better oral hygiene. However, some children may experience chronic bad breath. If their dentist eliminates oral issues, you may be referred to a primary care physician for additional tests to diagnose the underlying cause of halitosis.

Many of these causes of bad breath are temporary. Regardless of the cause of bad breath, teaching children how to form good dental care habits at an early age is vital for their oral health and overall health.

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.

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