There are many reasons children may exhibit a strong breath odor, all of which are treatable!
One frequent cause of bad breath is oral bacteria. Many bacteria responsible for breath odor live on the back of the tongue. Up close, the surface of the tongue looks like millions of tiny fingers called papilla. Bacteria get trapped between these tiny fingers and lead to bad breath. Many parents will brush their child’s tongue to clean it; however, brushing the tongue actually pushes some of the bacteria further into its surface. The bacteria also stick to the toothbrush and re-enter the mouth the next time you brush. Instead, use a tongue scraper for a more effective solution. Use a tongue scraper by pressing on your child’s tongue as far back as comfortable and scraping forward. Make sure to rinse the tongue scraper with hot water between uses. You can find tongue scrapers in the dental aisle near the pharmacy at your nearest grocery store or even Amazon. An antiseptic mouthwash can also be helpful for eliminating the germs that cause bad breath. Mouthwash is typically only recommended for children 6 and over. Please consult with Dr. Katie, Dr. Stephanie, or Dr. Taryn on the use of mouthwash for your kids.
A second cause of bad breath is oral bacteria found in the back of the throat, especially if a child has large tonsils and/or adenoids. Furthermore, children in daycare, preschool or school aged children are constantly exposed to germs that may cause low level respiratory infections, resulting in excess mucus production, a constant runny nose, and mucus drainage down the back of the throat. This bacteria and drainage lead to bad breath. Thankfully, as the immune system matures, older children are less likely to develop bad breath associated with respiratory issues and post nasal drainage.
Another common reason for bad breath may be gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Many young children experience reflux symptoms, and bad breath may be the first sign a parent becomes aware of. Symptoms of GERD may include:
A child’s breath may be especially bad in the morning or after a meal. The child’s dentist may also notice wearing away of the teeth caused by stomach acid coming into the mouth. If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, please consult with your child’s physician.