Nothing beats having your child crawl into your lap for a cuddle session at the end of a long day—unless that child’s breath is so stinky it could stop a hungry mountain lion in its tracks.
Just like adults, children can develop bad breath (aka halitosis) for a variety of reasons. As a parent, it’s important to keep tabs on the state of your child’s breath, because it can provide insights into your child’s oral health.
If you want to be able to hug your child without turning your face away from their theirs in disgust, then consider the following explanations for your child’s bad breath. Then work with your dentist to determine the appropriate treatment.
We hope you enjoy this blog, but please remember, it should NOT take the place of advice and consultation from a qualified dental professional (like the team at Rifkin Dental!). Please don't use content on the internet to self-diagnose — see your dental professional for regular check-ups and if you suspect you might have a chronic or acute dental issue.
Poor oral hygiene
In the majority of cases, stinky breath in children can be chalked up to a lack of proper oral hygiene. (This shouldn’t be surprising when you consider just how challenging it is to convince young kids to brush their teeth!) Whether it’s a failure to brush all the nooks and crannies of little ones’ mouths, the lack of a regular flossing routine, or forgetting to brush the tongue, poor oral hygiene can quickly lead to halitosis.
This may seem obvious, but sometimes the source of bad breath is as simple as your child having eaten something pungent earlier in the day. Onions, garlic, cheese, and other odiferous foods can all contribute to stinky breath even after your child has finished eating.
If your child’s mouth doesn’t produce adequate amounts of saliva, they may develop a condition known as dry mouth. In children, it’s most commonly a result of mouth breathing and/or dehydration. When kids are busy playing, it can be tough to convince them to drink enough water. But without adequate saliva for rinsing bits of food and bacteria out of the mouth, these particles may stick around and stink things up.
Certain medical conditions or medications
Children who are prone to allergies, colds, or sinus infections are also prone to stinky breath—and that’s no coincidence. Sinus infections can cause smelly mucus to drain into the throat and mouth, which can encourage bacteria production and contribute to bad breath.
Ironically, some of the medications meant to treat allergies, colds, and sinus infections can actually exacerbate bad breath. Antibiotics and antihistamines have both been linked to halitosis.
Oral health issues
As with adults, oral health issues in kids (such as cavities, gum disease, mouth sores or infections, and tonsillitis) can all contribute to bad breath. So long as you’re maintaining regular appointments with your dentist, they should be able to alert you to these issues within your child’s mouth.
We know: Convincing your child to eat their broccoli can be about as easy as herding cats. But not only is a healthy diet important for overall wellbeing, it’s also a critical aspect of oral health—and it can play a major role in the state of your child’s breath.
Sugary, processed, and/or high-carbohydrate foods (such as candy, soda, or potato chips) can all contribute to bad breath. In contrast, vegetables and complex carbs are more likely to sustain a healthy (and stink-free) oral cavity.
If you’ve eliminated any of these potential causes and your child is still walking around with chronic bad breath, then it’s probably time to consult your pediatrician to determine if an underlying health issue might be the culprit. But in most cases, cleaning up your child’s oral hygiene and diet will go a long way toward giving them fresher breath.