Bad Breath In Children - Reasons, Treatment And Home Remedies

Halitosis or Bad Breath In Kids With Pictures

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Bad breath in kids is common after they wake up or they eat something. But if it persists through the day, it is a cause for concern. Poor oral hygiene is a primary reason but it is not the only one. You need to find the cause of the problem to deal with it.

MomJunction provides you with details on the reasons for halitosis or bad breath in kids, its diagnosis, treatment and tips to prevent the problem.

Bad Breath In Kids

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What Is Halitosis?

Halitosis is the medical term for persistent bad breath, which could sometimes be a symptom of an underlying condition.

While halitosis in kids can create embarrassing situations for them and their parents, it is treatable.

Children tend to have bad breath more than adults do because of their eating habits and sleeping patterns. Therefore, it is possible that you may mistake bad breath in general as halitosis and worry about it.

How To Spot Halitosis In Children?

Children with halitosis usually have bad breath or odor emanating from the nose. The smell is distinct as it has some odor-creating sulfur compounds in it.

Symptoms can vary from one individual to another, based on the underlying cause. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Distinct foul odor: Breath can smell like raw liver, ammonia, acetone, dead fish, rancid butter or sweaty socks.
  • A bad taste in the mouth, which persists even after brushing.

Kids suffering from this problem might face embarrassing situations every day, which is why it is important to address it as soon as possible. Your kids may not be aware that they have bad breath. Therefore, it is up to you to watch out for these symptoms.

[ Read: Gum Disease In Children ]

What Causes Bad Breath In Children?

Here are a few reasons for smelly breath in children.

1. Poor Oral Hygiene

Poor oral and dental hygiene is among the most common causes of halitosis in children. Irregular or incomplete brushing may fail to remove the dental plaque residue in the child’s mouth.

  • Dental plaque is the accumulated bacteria that thrive on residual food particles or protein between the teeth.
  • Bad breath is specifically caused by gram-negative anaerobes that sit on the plaque.
  • Dental plaque is found between teeth, on the front and behind the teeth, and also along the gum line.
  • Plaque accumulation in the mouth causes not only bad breath but also other oral problems like gum diseases.

[ Read: Oral Hygiene For Kids ]

2. Dry Mouth

Saliva produced in the mouth helps in eliminating the bacteria that tends to settle down in the mouth. When we sleep, saliva is not produced, which is why we have bad breath after we wake up.

If enough saliva is not produced in the body, it results in a condition called xerostomia, which causes excessive dryness of the mouth and leads to smelly breath.

3. Bacteria On The Tongue

The tongue is where the bacteria settle in the mouth. In addition to brushing, your kid should also be taught to clean his tongue every day. You can use a brush or a plastic cleaner to remove the white coating that appears on the tongue.

4. Breathing With Mouth

Kids often breathe with their mouth when they sleep or when they have a blocked nose. Saliva is not produced when the mouth is open.The dryness leads to xerostomia. Mouth breathing also increases the risk of tooth decay.

5. Oral Infections/Gum Diseases

Your children may develop oral infections or gum diseases due to lack of proper care. The infections could be a result of high sugar content in their diet or due to poor dental hygiene.

Gingivitis or gum disease is also an inflammatory condition that causes bad breath in children.

6. Tooth Abscesses or Decay

Tooth abscess is an infection that results in pus formation in the teeth, while decay is permanent damage to teeth with small holes in them. Both the conditions can result in highly distinct, foul odors of the mouth.

Tooth abscesses are common in kids and can be caused due to injury or cavities, while tooth decay can be caused due to poor diet and oral hygiene.

[ Read: Tooth Abscess In Children ]

7. Foreign Objects

  • Dentures or braces in the mouth can lead to prolonged bad breath in kids.
  • Bad breath in younger kids could be because of foreign objects like small toys or food items that they put in their nostrils.

Removal of these objects usually eliminates the bad breath. If it doesn’t, check with your dentist immediately.

8. Food

The food we eat is a major factor that affects our breath.

  • Foods like garlic, onion or cheese can cause bad breath in children.
  • The diet, combined with poor oral hygiene may eventually lead to halitosis.
  • A high-protein or low-carb diet can also result in halitosis.
  • Fewer carbohydrates in the body result in production of ketones (1). Unused ketones in the body are released through the air you exhale, giving it an acetone-like smell.

9. Tonsils

Children with tonsils have deep pockets or crypts where food particles and debris accumulate.

  • Tonsil stones, also known as tonsilloliths, are small specks of white debris that can also cause bad breath in younger and older children.
  • These bits usually contain anaerobic bacteria with some amount of mucus and residue food particles, which make the breath offensive.

[ Read: Tonsillitis In Children ]

10. Medications

Continuous use of antibiotics for a month or more can cause bad breath in kids. Also, antipsychotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, antispasmodics and bronchodilators can cause dry mouth or xerostomia.

11. Other Medical Problems

Halitosis can sometimes indicate a medical condition.

  • Respiratory conditions like sinus, asthma, and enlarged adenoids can be a common cause of bad breath in kids.
  • Other conditions like diabetes, gastric infections, kidney failure, liver problems and oral cancer can cause bad breath, although rarely, in kids.
  • Halitosis can also be psychological (2), wherein an individual believes that he or she has the condition and gets obsessive about it. This condition, however, might not be applicable for children.

In any case, prolonged bad breath in children needs proper diagnosis by a medical professional. The sooner you address it, the better it is for your child.

Diagnosis Of Halitosis(Bad Breath)

Knowing what causes bad breath is winning half the battle. If you suspect that your child has halitosis, consult a doctor immediately. Your doctor may look at your child’s past medical records to narrow down the possible causes of bad breath.

  • In 90% of cases, oral hygiene, cavities and other dental problems are the reasons for bad breath (3).
  • Proper diagnosis of halitosis includes a clinical examination of head and neck, in addition to an oral and dental examination.
  • Doctors may rely on the organoleptic technique, which involves smelling the patient’s breath to determine the condition, or the instrumental technique, in which a device called halimeter is used to ascertain the existence of any sulfide gases in the breath.

The treatment options that the doctor recommends may vary based on the underlying reason for the condition.

Tips To Prevent Bad Breath In Kids

Teaching your kids about oral hygiene is the first step you should take to prevent bad breath. Ensure that your children:

  1. Brush their teeth regularly, for at least two minutes each time; make a habit of cleaning or rinsing their mouth after every meal.
  1. Use a mouthwash (without alcohol content) recommended by a dentist.
  1. Help your kids floss daily.
  1. Clean or brush the posterior or back part of the tongue regularly.
  1. Make your children drink lots of water as dehydration can lead to dry mouth.
  1. Give them healthy breakfast and include fruits and vegetables in their diet while reducing sugar intake. Do not skip meals.
  1. Clean their braces or other dental implants, if any, regularly.
  1. Go for regular dental checkups.

Talk to your kids about the importance of oral hygiene so that they take care of it willingly.

[ Read: How To Brush Teeth For Kids ]

Medical Treatment For Halitosis

There are different treatment options available for halitosis.

  • In case of dry mouth, you may be recommended to have sugar-free liquids to increase the amount of saliva produced.
  • Sometimes, doctor may prescribe artificial salivary substitutes like carboxymethylcellulose for dryness in mouth.
  • If your kid’s bad breath is due to gum diseases or other oral infections, doctors may perform surgical or pharmacological procedures to treat the condition.
  • In case of tooth decay or abscesses, surgical and endodontic treatments may be needed to eliminate the infection.
  • If a medical condition is the reason for halitosis, treating it will eventually eliminate chronic bad breath as well.

Consult a medical professional for a permanent solution to bad breath problems.

Home Remedies To Treat Bad Breath In Kids

Along with medical treatment, you may use the following home remedies for bad breath in children:

1. Parsley:

Parsley is a natural breath freshener with mild antiseptic qualities. It aids in digestion and also reduces internal gas that can cause halitosis. Encourage your kids to chew on a small piece of parsley after a meal, but make sure they don’t overeat it. Also, consult your doctor before using parsley as a remedy for halitosis.

2. Healthy Diet:

Reduce the amount of sugar that goes into your child’s body every day. Cut down carbonated, sweetened drinks and snacks, including chocolates and candies. Also, include foods that increase saliva flow like brown rice, orange and dark green vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish and beans, in your kid’s meal plan.

3. Fennel:

Fennel works as a breath sweetener. It also increases the amount of saliva produced in the mouth.

4. Apple Cider Vinegar:

Apple cider vinegar helps cleanse the body of toxins. It also helps you get rid of bad breath. Mix a spoon of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water for gargling. Make your child rinse the mouth with this solution and spit it out after ten seconds.

5. Baking Soda:

Baking soda can change the pH levels in your mouth. Brushing your children’s teeth with a small amount of baking soda will help cleanse the bacteria from the mouth.

6. Citrus Fruits:

Citrus fruits like oranges can help in producing more saliva in the mouth. Eating an orange after lunch or a grapefruit during breakfast can be great for your teeth.

7. Cardamom and Cloves:

Spices like cardamom and cloves act as mouth fresheners that can eliminate bad breath in kids.

Use these remedies alongside any medical treatments prescribed by your doctor. Also, it is imperative that you maintain oral hygiene for these natural remedies to work.

Myths About Halitosis

Myths surrounding halitosis or bad breath can lead you to make uninformed decisions for your child. Knowing the difference between facts and myths about halitosis makes it easier to diagnose and treat it.

1. You Can Fix Bad Breath With Mouthwash

If the bad breath is caused by eating certain foods like onions, garlic, eggs or cheese, it can be fixed by rinsing the mouth with mouthwash, but not if it is halitosis.

Using mouthwash regularly can at best disguise the bad breath for some time. The only way to treat halitosis is to find the cause and fix it.

For temporary respite from bad breath, use a mouthwash that has antiseptic properties and can remove plaque efficiently. For best results, ask your dentist for recommendations.

2. You Can Identify Bad Breath By Breathing Into Your Hand

Breathing into the hand is not an efficient way to check if you have bad breath. When you blow into the hand, you do not use the throat. But when you speak, you use the throat, and that brings out the odors from the back of the mouth resulting in bad breath.

3. Brushing Teeth Twice A Day Will Eliminate Bad Breath

Brushing is a simple activity that ensures oral hygiene. A common misconception is that brushing the teeth twice a day should keep away bad breath in children.

Many kids brush for a minute or less, which is not enough to remove the bacteria buildup in the mouth. You should brush for at least two minutes and cover all the regions in the mouth to eliminate dental plaque.

Nevertheless, you can still have bad breath due to other reasons mentioned above.

Most Frequently Asked Questions About Bad Breath

1. My child has bad breath even after brushing. Why?

Brushing can prevent bad breath only if it is done right. Brushing for less than two minutes and not cleaning the different parts of the mouth in the process can be the reason why children have bad breath even after brushing.

2. Why children are more prone to bad breath than adults?

Children sleep for longer hours and tend to eat sweetened foods more than adults do. The longer the child sleeps, the more the bacteria that gets accumulated in the mouth. That, combined with the foods the child eats, makes children prone to halitosis or bad breath.

3. Is bad breath in children linked to diabetes?

Not always. Bad breath or halitosis is sometimes associated with diabetes, but other factors can also result in the condition. To know if halitosis in your kid is due to diabetes, consult a medical professional.

Oral health is one of the most important aspects of a child’s overall well-being. A healthy mouth is the key to a healthy body. Halitosis is a condition that you can prevent with proper care. If the condition persists in spite of complete oral care, medical help is always there!

Does your child have bad breath? Tell us how you are dealing with it.

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Sagari Gongala

Sagari is a math graduate and studied counseling psychology in postgraduate college, which she uses to understand people better. This skill also helps her write better articles about kids and their behavior. She is meticulous in her research and gives you information that could be the ultimate help you’ll need in times of need. An animal lover, vegan, and coffee addict, Sagari puts her mind and soul into whatever she does. During her free time, you'll find her either rescuing a sick/injured animal with a friend, or glued to her couch watching Sons Of Anarchy on Netflix.
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