Bad Breath In Children:
Causes - Treatment - Prevention

You may find this surprising, but bad breath in children is quite common. Many believe this problem to be the exclusive domain of adults, but that's not the case at all.

There are several reasons bad breath can occur at an early age. Those reasons include, but certainly aren't limited to, post nasal drip, poor dental hygiene, mouth breathing, and especially in smaller children, foreign objects in the nose.


The most common cause of bad breath in children is post nasal drip, which can be caused by colds, allergies, and sinus infections. Poor dental hygiene can lead to cavities and trapped food particles, causing swollen gums and can also be a key factor in tonsillitis. Mouth breathing for any reason, whether it is due to allergies or certain medicines, prevents the mouth from producing the much-needed saliva that washes away bacteria. Smaller children are prone to putting objects in the nose that can become stuck, resulting in an infection.

If your child has a green discharge from one nostril, check for foreign objects in the nose as this is very common in smaller children, and most infections cause both sides of the nose to drain. If this occurs, check with your doctor. Removal of any foreign object may require your doctor's expertise. Do not attempt to do this yourself. It's important to teach children as soon as they are old enough to pick up objects that they should never place foreign objects in the nose, ears, or mouth.

Colds can be treated with over the counter medicines such as decongestants and cough suppressants. Cold medicines will help dry up nasal passages thus relieving sneezing, coughing, and post nasal drip. Just be aware that any medication that dries up the sinus and oral cavities can also contribute to bad breath in children.

Allergies, sinus infections, and enlarged adenoids can cause your child to breath through the mouth. There are over the counter medicines for allergies, such as Claritin and the generic forms Alavert and loratadine, but sinus infections may require antibiotics that only your doctor can prescribe. For any other medications taken regularly, you should read the warning labels for the side effects as some medicines themselves cause dry mouth.

Some allergies can be prevented by eliminating the cause, which can be dust mites and mold, pet dander, second-hand smoke, and high pollen counts. Keeping the indoor humidity low helps control dust mites and mold since they increase in high humidity. It is best not to keep pets inside due to the surface allergens, but if that is not possible, keeping the pet out of the child's room and bathing the pet once a week will reduce exposure. If you or someone in the household smokes, your child is at risk for second-hand smoke allergies. Eliminating this cause will clear up the allergy and is the perfect reason to quit.

Practicing good dental hygiene can treat or prevent bad breath in children. Teach your young ones to brush the teeth and tongue, to floss daily, and to rinse thoroughly with water afterwards (There's no need for mouthwash at this age). This will help rid the mouth of trapped food and bacteria that can lead to cavities.

Bad breath in children can be just as embarrassing for them as it is for adults. By eliminating the causes one by one, you should be able to keep your child's mouth healthy, clean, and smelling fresh.

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