Bad Breath In Children – Reasons, Signs & Home Remedies

Bad Breath In Kids

Every parent understands the need for hygiene. Bad breath can cause a child to face some social awkwardness, but it can also be a serious indicator or a symptom of an underlying disease. Sometimes, the biggest challenge for a parent is to know when the issue is medical and when is it hygiene oriented.

Halitosis is the medical condition that causes bad breath and is also a symptom of numerous different illnesses that range from simple digestive issues like GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) to more serious issues like kidney failure. Combating this condition is essential for both physical and mental health of the child. Apart from the physical signs, halitosis could also impact emotional health, resulting in conditions like chronic depression, anxiety and a number of complexes.

The first step to battling this potentially dangerous problem is to understand it.

Video: Bad Breath in Kids – Causes and Remedies

What is Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Halitosis is not the same as a rare occurrence of bad breath. It is persistent bad breath due to some underlying cause. It generally is in the form of bacteria in your child’s mouth, releasing an odour that is unpleasant. This could be caused by improper dental hygiene, poor food habits, or certain medical conditions. Since children generally have bad breath more often than adults, it is often mistaken for halitosis. A child with bad breath can be self-conscious or socially awkward and, hence, must learn how to take care of his teeth properly.

What Are the Causes of Bad Breath?

Here are the most common causes of halitosis in children:

  • Poor oral hygiene: Bad breath can be caused if your child is not brushing and flossing his teeth properly and frequently enough. If plaque is not brushed away correctly, it could affect the gums. The tongue also harbours bacteria that could potentially cause bad breath, so ensure that your child is cleaning his tongue as well.
  • Dry mouth: When the amount of saliva produced is less, it could cause a condition known as xerostomia which, in turn, causes bad breath. Saliva is important to keep the mouth clean.
  • Breathing through the mouth: Most children have the habit of breathing through their mouth rather than their nose. This causes the mouth to dry out quickly.
  • Foreign object: It might surprise you to know that sometimes a foreign object in the nose will go unnoticed. This will cause a buildup of bacteria that causes bad breath.
  • Infections: If your child has conditions like plaque buildup, cavities, mouth sores, or previous oral surgery, he could suffer from bad breath.
  • Medications: When certain medicines break down, it causes chemicals to be released that cause bad breath.
  • Certain conditions: If your child suffers from any condition like allergies, tonsillitis, or sinus infection, he can develop bad breath due to them.

Medical Conditions That Cause Bad Breath in Kids

Sometimes, halitosis could be a symptom of some other underlying medical condition your child could be suffering from. These include:

  • Respiratory conditions like sinus, asthma, or enlarged adenoids.
  • Conditions like diabetes, kidney failure, gastric infections, liver problems and oral cancer.

Halitosis that stays for a long extended period needs medical attention. The sooner your child gets medical attention the quicker the condition will resolve itself.

Common Signs of Halitosis

The most recognisable sign of halitosis is bad breath despite constant brushing or cleaning of teeth, tongue and mouth. But there can also be a different cause for the condition. Look out for other conditions like:

  • Swollen tonsils
  • Swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Cavities
  • GERD

What is Chronic Bad Breath in a Child?

Chronic bad breath or halitosis in children is a symptom of various diseases. The commonly known causes for this condition are a number of ENT issues. Chronic bad breath is also known as recurring bad breath.

Bad breath can significantly affect a child’s social behaviour or face peer isolation. However, an important thing to do is to have a talk with your child and encourage healthy oral practices and help him/her overcome their self-consciousness.


The proper diagnosis of bad breath in children will include a physical examination of the head and neck as well as oral and dental examination. Your doctor might use a device known as halimeter to detect any sulphide gases in the breath. In almost 90% of all cases, bad breath or halitosis is caused by improper oral hygiene leading to cavities and other dental problems.

Medical Treatment

Since the cause of bad breath varies, the treatment for the condition is dependent on the cause.

  • If the halitosis is caused by dry mouth, your child will have to drink lots of liquids that are devoid of any sugar to increase the amount of saliva produced in the mouth.
  • The doctor might prescribe artificial saliva substitutes.
  • Halitosis caused by infections in the mouth will require that the cause is treated first via medication or surgery depending on the nature and extent of the infection.
  • Surgery will be required to correct tooth decay or the presence of an abscess.
  • Other medical conditions causing the bad breath will have to be treated before your doctor figures how to cure bad breath in a child.

Home Remedies to Treat Bad Breath in Children

There are plenty of home remedies you can use to reduce the bad breath your child suffers from. Here are a few:

  • Parsley: It has antiseptic qualities apart from being a natural mouth freshener. It also helps ease digestion which could be causing the bad breath. Give your child a few parsley leaves to chew on after every meal.
  • Balanced diet: Refined sugar and processed food contribute to the bad health of your child’s mouth. Make sure to cut down on carbonated drinks, candies, and chocolates. Increase foods like fruits and vegetables along with brown rice and nuts.
  • Fennel: At the end of a meal you could give your child a little fennel to remove bad breath.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Mix a spoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and make your child gargle with it. The apple cider vinegar will kill any bacteria that are growing in your child’s mouth.
  • Baking soda: The bacteria that live in your child’s mouth need a certain environment to live in. The pH of the mouth is important to its environment. Brushing your teeth with baking soda will change the pH of the mouth and kill the bacteria that are causing bad breath.
  • Citrus fruits: Not only does the citric acid in the fruit kill bacteria in the mouth, but it also increases the amount of saliva produced. Pack an orange along with your kid’s meal.
  • Spices like cardamom and cloves: These spices are known to reduce bad breath. However, they might be too strong tasting for your child and must be used sparingly.

These home remedies must be used along with whatever treatment plan your doctor decides on. While trying these remedies, make sure that your child continues good oral hygiene.

Tips To Avoid Bad Breath in Your Child

Since most of the cases of bad breath in children are caused by poor oral hygiene, you should teach your child how to take care of his teeth better.

  • Brush twice a day Your child must brush his teeth twice a day for two minutes each time. Also, he must rinse his mouth after every meal.
  • Ask your dentist to recommend a mouthwash for your child. Ensure that it is formulated especially for children.
  • Teach your child how to floss properly.
  • Your child must clean the tongue properly since most of the bacteria that cause bad breath, stay on the tongue.
  • Your child must drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Make sure your child has a healthy and balanced diet with reduced sugar intake.
  • Any dental implants like braces or retainers must be cleaned thoroughly and regularly.
  • Your child must get regular dental checkups.

Children are usually fussy when it comes to maintaining their oral health. Talk to them about it and explain what the importance of good oral hygiene is.


1. My Child Has Bad Breath Even After Brushing. Why?

Most children do not know how to brush their teeth effectively. They must brush for at least 2 minutes and pay attention to all parts of the mouth. Not cleaning their tongue will cause bad breath.

2. Why Are Children More Prone to Bad Breath Than Adults?

Children tend to sleep longer than adults do. This allows the bacteria in the mouth to build up for longer. Children also eat more items that have high quantities of sugar. These two factors combined usually always guarantees bad breath.

3. Is Bad Breath in Children Linked to Diabetes?

This is not true for all cases. Yes, halitosis has been linked to diabetes, but it has been linked to several other conditions as well. Getting the proper medical treatment is imperative for an accurate diagnosis.

Dental and oral hygiene is very important to everyone but is especially more so to your growing child. Learning important routines of maintaining oral health is crucial for your child. Make sure he visits a child-friendly dentist who will teach him about the different ways to keep his teeth clean. You can then help him at home with his routine. Most often than not, bad breath in children is caused by poor oral hygiene.

Also Read: Personal Hygiene in Kids

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