Not infrequently we will receive inquiries from parents regarding their children having bad breath. Having children of my own I too have witnessed periodic episodes of halitosis from my kids, usually when they awaken in the morning. Probably the most common time for kids to experience halitosis is when they awaken in the morning or after a nap. With bad breath being so common with young children what could be the cause?

The overriding cause of most breath problems, whether in an adult or a young child, is bacterial in nature. It often is a side effect of bacterial imbalances taking place in the mouth. Bad breath can effect kids of all ages, even as early as toddler age. Parents are also often unaware of how frequently they should brush and floss their kids’ teeth so something as simple as plaque building up on the teeth can contribute to a breath problem.  For those children that are old enough to brush their own teeth a common problem is the child either not brushing frequently enough or not doing an adequate job. In these situations an electric toothbrush such as the Sonicare® can make all the difference in the world, and it can also motivate the child to brush their teeth more often. See our website for more information on the Sonicare® toothbrush.

A dry mouth condition can also be a contributor to halitosis both in adults and in children and can have numerous causes especially in adults. Typically both adults and children will have stagnant mouths during sleep and the natural flow of saliva will decrease dramatically during sleep. Children can also mouth breathers due to allergies, congestion from colds and flus, and this can restrict breathing through the nose and can result in mouth breathing which in turn will dry the mouth. Mucous and drying saliva along with gram (-) anaerobic bacteria can accumulate on the tongue and be a major source of malodor. Teaching your child to brush their tongue or even having them scrape their tongue can make a significant difference in their breath odor. Depending upon the child’s age mouth rinse may be ill advised because the child may swallow the rinse. Also many mouth rinses contain high levels of alcohol and this can further dry the mouth and worsen the halitosis condition.  The majority of children who experience halitosis experience it upon awakening but if the condition continues longer into the day this is often a sign of mouth breathing or an allergy condition that is impeding the child’s ability to breath adequately through their nose.

Methods to aid in the prevention bad breath in children:

  • Make sure your child’s teeth are being brushed and flossed adequately twice a day.
  • Have your child brush or scrape their tongue when they are brushing their teeth.
  • Make sure your child is drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day and they are not becoming dehydrated.
  •  Have your child see an allergists if you suspect they have allergies. If they are mouth  breathingand don’t have a cold there is a decent chance they have some form of allergies. 

About the author: Dr. Anthony Dailley is a practicing general dentist in Berkeley California. He has been practicing since 1981 and graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in Cell & Molecular Biology, and obtained his dental degree from the Pacific School of Dentistry. Dr. Dailley also holds a fellowship position with the International Congress of Oral Implantologist (ICOI). Dr. Dailley has also been a founder in a biotech company called NovaBay Pharmaceuticals and was a member of their board of directors from 1997 -2014.