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What Causes Bad Breath in Children?

What Causes Bad Breath in Children?

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

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

If you are concerned that you child’s breath is not as pleasant as it could be, the first step is to determine the cause. The following are some of the most common causes of halitosis 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 poor oral hygiene habits. If your child does not brush and floss frequently enough or for enough time, bad breath can start to develop. Bacteria and plaque on the teeth, gums and tongue can all cause bad breath.


Make sure your child is brushing twice a day, for two minutes at a time with proper technique, and flossing once a day will probably do the trick. It’s also important that your child has regular visits to the dentist’s office for a professional cleaning

Problem: Dry Mouth

Saliva helps to cleanse the mouth. If there is insufficient saliva flow in your child’s mouth, bad breath causing bacteria can build up more readily.


Make sure your child is drinking enough fluids throughout the day, and that he is properly hydrated.

Problem: Mouth Breathing

If your child breathes through his mouth, it 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.


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 your child is not dealing with either of these issues, there may be an underlying medical or dental condition causing it, so you should make an appointment with a doctor.

Problem: Bacteria on the Tongue

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


Show your child how to brush his tongue as part of his oral hygiene routine. Mouth wash may also help eliminate this problem.

Problem: Oral Health Problems

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


Good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist will help prevent cavities. If your child already has a cavity, 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 will sometimes take it upon themselves to put small objects up their noses (typically small pieces of food or tiny toys, and this can cause bad breath in some cases,


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 they object can be extracted.

Problem: Strong-Smelling Foods

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


Bad breath caused by specific foods will eventually fade away by itself. 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 regularly has bad breath as a result of the food he is eating, a change in diet may be the most realistic solution.

Problem: Medications

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


You can talk to your child’s doctor about other alternatives to this medication, but once the prescription is finished, the bad breath will fade away on its own.

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.


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 North Delta children’s dentists for advice.

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