Why does my child have bad breath?

Key points:

  • People can suffer from bad breath at any age
  • In most cases, bad breath in children is due to improper cleaning at home or sinus conditions
  • Diagnosing the cause of bad breath in a child can be done by a dentist, doctor or fresh breath consultant

Why do children get bad breath?

Over half of the population suffer from some form of bad breath at some stage in their lives and sadly children of all ages are among this statistic. Noticing a bad odour from your child’s breath on occasion is not something to be overly worried about. The occasional bad smell could be due to something they ate recently (dairy products, high protein meals), sinus congestion or infections, not brushing their teeth properly for the last few days or reflux. Bad breath should become a concern for parents when the smell is obvious for weeks and months at a time. This is known as chronic halitosis.

Common causes of bad breath in children

  • Ear, nose and throat conditions or infections
  • Irregular or poor cleaning techniques at home
  • Calculus or tartar build-up
  • A heavy film or coating on the tongue
  • Diet - high in dairy and protein
  • Oral health disease - decay, infection or gum disease
  • Impacted wisdom teeth
  • Dry mouth
  • Medical condition - diabetes, kidney or liver problems
  • Smoking or vaping

Who do I see about my child's bad breath?

A dentist should be your first consultation to rule out the most obvious causes of bad breath. A dentist will conduct several tests such as a comprehensive examination of the teeth, perform a gum analysis screening to check for gum disease, test the saliva, provide oral hygiene instructions to improve home care, give the teeth and gums a professional scale and clean and check for ears, nose and throat conditions and provide a referral should there be any concerns.

How to treat bad breath in children.

  1. Visit the dentist for an examination to check for decay and infection and have a professional clean to remove any build-up of tartar
  2. Make sure they are brushing and flossing twice a day and doing a thorough job of cleaning every surface of the teeth and gums.
  3. Introduce tongue cleaning to their daily oral health routine
  4. Review their diet. Diets high in dairy products tend to cause a build-up of mucous which leads to bad breath
  5. Drink plenty of water and avoid soft drinks and juices
  6. Limit the amount of snacking (grazing) throughout the day. The mouth needs time during meals for saliva to buffer the ph levels in your mouth and to wash away any debris build-up from food.
  7. Seek a referral to an ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat) specialist to identify any issues that could be causing the odour (bad breath)

    If bad breath is still present in your child after trying all of the tips listed above, speak to your GP about your concerns and request they do further investigation into finding a possible underlying medical condition.