Bad breath in children not only indicates a possible oral health problem, but it can also be socially detrimental for your child. After all, bad breath in kids can cause teasing, bullying, or rejection by your child’s peers. Depending on the age of your child, it may be a tough conversation to sit them down and explain to them that they need to take better care of their bad breath. For this reason, the best thing that a parent can do is teach good oral hygiene habits as early as possible.
What are the Causes of Bad Breath?
Bad breath can come from a number of different causes. Most are related to basic hygiene, while others can also be indicative of more major health problems:
- Food: Different foods can make your child’s breath more smelly than usual. If your child frequently eats garlic, onions, canned fish (like tuna), and certain dairy products (some cheeses), they should be encouraged to eat a mint, chew some gum, or brush their teeth right after their meal. It is super easy to leave some breath mints or gum in their lunchbox so that they can have good breath at school.
- Oral Hygiene: Oral hygiene is essential to maintaining a good smelling, clean mouth. Without consistent, frequent oral hygiene habits, food particles will remain in your child’s mouth and cause bacteria build-up, making their breath smell. Help your child brush at least twice a day, floss once a day, and use mouth wash. Don’t forget to clean the tongue as well.
- Gum Disease: Gum disease most often occurs in people who have not practiced good oral hygiene for long periods of time. Plaque builds up in the teeth and damages the gums. Furthermore, if gum disease is left untreated, it can also cause serious injury to the jawbone. If your child is showing signs of bad breath paired with other symptoms like swollen gums, bleeding gums, and/or pus, you will want to get an appointment with a dentist immediately. Minimize your child’s risk of gum disease by helping them practice good oral hygiene.
- Yeast Infections: Also known as oral thrush, an oral yeast infection is often caused by a weakened immune system or certain medications, like prednisone. The symptoms of an oral yeast infection include loss of taste, white lesions that appear like cottage-cheese, and soreness. If your child has a yeast infection, call your dentist immediately. You can prevent yeast infections in your child by limiting sugary foods and helping them have good oral hygiene.
- Dry Mouth: Dry mouth in children tends to originate from certain medications (i.e. acne drugs, allergy drugs, depression drugs, etc.) or dehydration. Dry mouth is a constant feeling of dryness, thirst, and/or burning in the mouth which can often result in yeast infections or gum disease and, therefore, bad breath. Talk to your dentist who should be able to give your child helpful medication or other products. In the mean-time, having your child chew on sugar-free gum can help increase his or her salivation and ease the discomfort. Finally, make sure that your child is getting enough fluids to drink during the day, especially if they are very active.
- Mouth Breathing: Your child may be breathing with their mouth rather than their nose. This can happen at night or, if the child is congested and sick, it can also occur during the day. Breathing through the mouth keeps your child from generating the needed saliva to remove bad bacteria, leading to bad breath in kids. If your child is congested, you should treat the illness. If the mouth-breathing persists after the congestion goes away, talk to your dentist or pediatrician for guidance.
The underlying issue to most breath problems, as well as oral health problems, is poor oral hygiene. As a parent, it is your responsibility to help your children adopt healthy habits like frequent brushing, a balanced diet, frequent flossing, and the use of mouth wash. Take your child to his or her dentist at least twice a year for preventative care and cleaning, and consult with your dentist immediately if you are seeing any symptoms of oral health issues. This will keep your child healthy and happy, as well as encourage prosocial behaviors.