The Stinky Truth about Children’s Halitosis 

Did you know that halitosis (bad breath) affects 50% of Americans every year? Children and adults can get bad breath from a variety of causes, most of which are minor and easily fixed. In fact, nearly 90% of all cases of halitosis are due to poor oral hygiene habits. Below are some common things that can contribute to children’s halitosis.


Sometimes certain medications (such as antihistamines) can decrease saliva production, and cause dry mouth. Bacteria that should get washed away is left to reproduce, and leaves a foul odor.

If your child began taking a new medication recently, then this may be causing their bad breath. You should make sure that they continue to take their medication as directed by their doctor, but pay extra attention to their oral care routine. Be sure your child is brushing twice per day, for two minutes at a time. You can consider adding a therapeutic mouthwash to their oral care routine, as long as it is age appropriate and has the ADA seal of approval.

Dietary Causes

Some foods are notorious for causing temporary bad breath. Garlic, onions, fish and spicy foods can turn even the best breath sour. Even dairy – which strengthens teeth and enamel – can cause bad breath.

The best way to get rid of bad breath caused by food is to swish cool water around your mouth for 30 seconds, 15 minutes after a meal. Make sure to always brush your teeth after eating a spicy meal.

Dry Mouth

Saliva naturally cleans the mouth, and a dry mouth will likely lead to halitosis. While there are multiple causes for dry mouth such as stress, anxiety and certain medications, it can usually be fixed by eating foods that increase saliva production like cheese, apples or carrots. Make sure your child gets enough water – 8 to 10 cups per day- and if that doesn’t help, then have them chew gum sweetened with xylitol – a healthy sugar substitute – to increase their saliva flow.

Food Debris

Sometimes, food debris can stick around after a meal and will cause bad breath – this is especially true for children! If this is the case, rinse out your child’s mouth with clean, cool water for 30 seconds to remove any excess debris. If that doesn’t remove leftover food, help them brush and thoroughly floss to reach any food that remains stuck.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Poor oral hygiene is the leading cause of children’s halitosis, so make sure your child brushes their teeth twice per day, for two minutes at a time, and flosses once per day. Additionally, check their toothbrush to see if it is still in working order. If the bristles are frayed or it is older than 3 months, then it’s time to replace it.

Oral Infection

Bad breath can be the result of oral surgery, open sores or plaque buildup. If you have a mouth sore, you can help treat it and keep it clean by swishing warm salt water in your mouth for 30 seconds. If your child’s bad breath still persists, then see their pediatric dentist to help remedy it.

The Best Remedy is Prevention

Most bad breath is the result of poor oral hygiene. If your child is maintaining a good dental cleaning regiment – brushing twice per day for 2 minutes at a time and flossing once per day – then you will most likely have fresh breath. However, if your child has a good oral health routine and still suffers from bad breath, then visit a pediatric dentist near you.

Use our dental practice locator to find a pediatric dentist in your neighborhood.

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