Bad Breath Causes, Diagnosis & Prevention in Children

Janaki Srinivasan
3 to 7 years

Created by Janaki Srinivasan
Updated on Mar 27, 2021

Bad Breath Causes Diagnosis Prevention in Children
Reviewed by Expert panel

Oral care is very important from the time your child starts eating solid foods(from experts). Many children insist on brushing their teeth themselves. While it is a good habit, but adult supervision until they really get to do it well is important. This is because food particles may remain in the mouth and may cause cavities and bad breath. If bad breath goes away after brushing, it’s good. But what if it persists even after brushing the teeth thoroughly? Bad breath or halitosis as it is medically referred to, is a serious medical problem that many kids suffer from. Though improper brushing is a primary cause, it is not the single culprit.

Bad Breath Causes in Your Kid

Let’s take a brief look at those other causes to understand the problem better.

  1. Poor Oral Hygiene:

    This is one of the primary reasons for bad breath. Children tend to brush their teeth fast and carelessly. Sometimes, toddlers dislike brushing, they may not like the flavor of the toothpaste and it becomes a herculean task for the parent to brush the child’s teeth. And because the food debris remains stuck between the teeth, it could cause cavities, dental plaque, bad breath, tartar build-up, and other problems. [Explore: What Is The Right Age To Start Brushing?]
  2. Dry Mouth:

    Sometimes, we may not be aware but the child may be salivating less. Saliva is very essential to cleanse the mouth and therefore less saliva could lead to xerostomia (dryness of the mouth) which causes bad breath
  3. Breathing Through the Mouth:

    Sometimes, children may suffer from cold and blocked nose due to which they may not be able to breathe through the nose and use the mouth instead. This makes the tongue dry; saliva secretion gets reduced and results in bad breath
  4. Bacteria in the Tongue:

    Every morning after brushing the tongue should be thoroughly cleaned. This is important because bacteria settle in the tongue if it is not kept clean. You can use a tongue cleaner or the back of the brush which is exclusively made for this purpose
  5. Infections/Gum Disease/ Tooth Decay:

    Bad breath could also be a result of infections and gum diseases that are not properly attended to. Oral infections could be due to the food that the child eats (high in sugar content) or poor oral hygiene. Tooth problems such as abscess or cavities could also lead to bad breath. [Explore: Cavity Causes, Tooth Decay Symptoms in Children]
  6. Foreign Objects:

    Sometimes, toddlers could put small objects (beads, beans) or very small toys and food particles into their nose which could cause bad breath. Once they are removed, it becomes normal again. But if bad breath persists even after removal of the object, you must consult a dentist immediately. Besides this, the use of braces and dentures could also be responsible for bad breath in children
  7. Food:

    The type of food that children consume could be responsible for bad breath. Onion, garlic, high protein or low carb diet are some of the foods that cause bad breath
  8. Medications:

    if your child is suffering from tonsillitis, sinus, allergies, gastric infections or serious problems like diabetes, liver/kidney failure, and oral cancer and if they are on medications such as antipsychotics, antihistamines, antispasmodics for long, they can suffer from bad breath

How Is Bad Breath Diagnosed?

There are several tips to diagnose the problem:

  • Doctors use a sensory or organoleptic method where they stand about 5 inches away from the patient and ask them to exhale. They rate the odor on a five-point scale
  • They could take scrapings from the back of the tongue to evaluate the problem
  • They could use a Halimeter which rates hydrogen sulfide in the mouth after the patient inserts a straw into the nostrils/mouth and holds his breath for 10 seconds
  • Sometimes, looking over past medical history records is sufficient. At other times, proper diagnosis of halitosis requires a thorough examination of the head and neck besides dental check-up

Prevention Of Bad Breath in Children:

At the time you start brushing the teeth for children, you must drive home the importance of oral hygiene. Make sure that you follow these simple steps on a regular basis to brush away bad breath and other tooth problems. [Explore: Child's Dental Health Care Tips During Holidays]

  1. Brushing twice a day, at morning and at night is definitely a must for oral hygiene
  2. Use an alcohol-free mouthwash
  3. Besides cleaning of the teeth, the tongue must be cleaned as well. Teach your kids how to floss
  4. Children should drink lots of water to prevent dryness of the mouth
  5. They must have fruits and vegetables daily, should not skip meals and avoid foods that contain excess sugar. Fibrous foods activate the salivary glands and ensure that they salivate enough
  6. In case your children use braces, make sure those are cleaned regularly
  7. Every year, take your kids for a dental check-up at least once


Remember, temporarily masking foul breath with mints or gums is not the solution. Kids must be educated from a very young age about the importance of oral hygiene. If problems persist despite regular brushing, flossing and regular care, you must consult a dentist at once.

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This content has been checked & validated by Doctors and Experts of the parentune Expert panel. Our panel consists of Neonatologist, Gynecologist, Peadiatrician, Nutritionist, Child Counselor, Education & Learning Expert, Physiotherapist, Learning disability Expert and Developmental Pead.

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| Mar 18, 2018

very nice tips

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| Mar 18, 2018

it's very important n useful

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| Mar 19, 2018

Great blog!

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| Apr 12, 2018

yes mam ...hum to kbse pareshan the.. aftr brush bhi mere son k mouth me se smell aati h..

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| Apr 12, 2018


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| Jul 07, 2018

Very useful information...

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