Everyone gets bad breath occasionally, but chronic bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be frustrating and concerning. Babies, children, and teenagers can all experience halitosis, and you may catch an unpleasant whiff when you sit across from your child or go in for a hug.
Bad breath might not be anything serious, but you should always pay close attention to your child’s oral health. Catching problems early is the best way to prevent lasting damage and to instill healthy habits that will last a lifetime. To make sure your son or daughter has good dental health, you should understand what causes bad breath and how to get rid of bad breath in a child.
Causes of Bad Breath in Children
The main cause of bad breath in people of all ages is plaque buildup. When food particles and bacteria stay in your mouth for too long, they turn into plaque, which is a sticky layer that develops around the teeth and tongue. Plaque produces VSCs, or volatile sulfur compounds, which are responsible for smelly breath.
Poor oral hygiene can cause plaque buildup on the teeth and tongue. Certain foods can contribute, too. Dairy products are notorious for causing bad breath, so if your child drinks a lot of milk, they may experience halitosis. Dry mouth can affect the breath as well because saliva is necessary for washing away bacteria and food debris. Common causes of dry mouth in children are medication side effects and not drinking enough water.
Some aromatic foods, like garlic and onions, can affect the breath when they enter the bloodstream during digestion. If the smell reaches the lungs, it will affect your child’s breath. This isn’t the result of plaque buildup or poor dental hygiene, so you shouldn’t worry too much if your child only has bad breath after eating a garlicky meal.
Sudden bad breath in toddlers may be a sign of a more serious problem. Most toddlers love putting foreign objects in their nose, and some objects will start to give off a nasty odor when lodged in the nasal passages for a while. If you think that this is the case for your child, you should see your family doctor for help finding and removing the object.
Swollen tonsils are another potential cause of sudden bad breath in toddlers and older children. Infected tonsils look red and inflamed, and they sometimes have white spots on them. Bacteria can build up in swollen and infected tonsils, which will create a bad odor. You can check your child’s tonsils with a flashlight, but you’ll have to take them to the pediatrician to fix the problem.
Causes of Bad Breath in Teenagers
Braces, retainers, and other orthodontic treatments often cause bad breath in teenagers. They can make brushing and flossing more difficult, so bacteria and food particles build up around the teeth and tongue. Also, teenagers are usually starting to make more of their own dietary choices. Furthermore, they might start drinking sugary beverages or eating unhealthy snacks that affect their teeth. If they don’t keep up with their dental hygiene, these foods and drinks can lead to halitosis.
Hormone changes during adolescence sometimes result in bad breath as well. Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done about this problem, but it won’t last forever. Good oral hygiene habits and sugar-free mints or chewing gum can help cover up halitosis caused by hormones.
Cigarettes and tobacco products also contribute to bad breath. Not all teens with bad breath smoke, but it is a potential cause that has lots of other health consequences. In addition to causing bad breath, smoking can lead to permanent damage to the teeth, mouth, throat, and lungs. If you suspect that your teenager is smoking, you should try to have an open and nonjudgmental conversation with them and encourage them to quit.
How to Get Rid of Bad Breath in a Child
Good oral hygiene is the best way to combat bad breath. If you teach your child healthy dental habits at a young age, they’ll be more likely to stick with it as they grow up. Kids usually need help brushing their teeth until they’re around six or seven years old. You should either monitor your child’s brushing or help them until they can do it themselves.
Everyone should brush for two minutes twice per day and floss once per day. Not only is it important to brush regularly, but you should also make sure your child brushes with the proper technique. Instead of harshly scrubbing the toothbrush back and forth across the teeth, it’s better to gently move the toothbrush up and down or in small circles. This will help your child clean the entire surface of their teeth. Brushing the tongue is just as important as brushing the teeth, too.
For deep cleanings, you should bring your son or daughter to a children’s dentist every six months. Dentists use equipment to clean the teeth more thoroughly than a standard toothbrush can, and they’ll look for early signs of tooth damage or decay. Your children’s dentist can give you advice on how to prevent or cure your child’s bad breath.
Monitoring your child’s food choices might help get rid of their bad breath, too. Sugary foods that cause plaque and bacteria to build up in the mouth are a common cause of bad breath, especially with teenagers who are starting to make their own food choices. Encourage your children to stay away from sugary snacks and drinks as much as possible, or have them drink a glass of water after eating something sugary to help flush their mouth out. Eating a crunchy fruit after a meal is another good way to flush out food debris and freshen up bad breath.
Bad breath can be unpleasant and embarrassing, and it’s sometimes a sign of a more serious problem. If your child is experiencing halitosis, contact Dr. Engel at Kinder Smiles to schedule an appointment. The doctor and his team can help you identify the cause of the bad breath. And learn how to treat it, so your child can remain in good dental health. Contact us today to see why we do what we do.
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KinderSmiles Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics
400 Kinderkamack Rd.
Oradell, NJ 07649
Bad Breath Causes (EPIC TRUTH)
Dr Engel holds a speciality license in pediatric dentistry from New Jersey and New York. He also has attained sedation certification, which allows for in-office oral sedation options, and he’s on staff at Hackensack University Medical Center. As an attending pediatric dentist at HUMC, Dr Engel retains operating room privileges, allowing for an array of treatment modalities and anaesthesia options.