Bad Breath in Children

Bad breath or halitosis is usually associated with adults, but it is in fact a condition that many children and even toddlers suffer from. Although the probable cause behind a child's bad breath is generally harmless, it may be indicative of a potentially troubling medical condition. Hence, it is imperative for parents to not take their child's bad breath lightly and seek immediate medical attention to rule out anything serious.

Possible Causes of Bad Breath in Children

There can be a variety of factors causing bad breath in children. Usually there is no cause for concern and bad breath may simply be a result of poor eating habits or lack of hygiene on part of the child. In some cases, however, halitosis may be pointing towards something more serious, which should be investigated without delay.

1. Oral Hygiene

Food may be deposited in the crevices of the teeth; this will also lead to bad breath in children. It is therefore of extreme importance that children are encouraged to brush their teeth regularly and properly. Further, the mouth should be rinsed several times in order to get rid of any remaining debris or food articles.

2. Large Tonsils

If the child has large tonsils, he is at greater risk of suffering from bad breath. This is because a greater amount of food and nasal and oral secretions are deposited in the pits of tonsils if these are larger in size. When these deposits decompose, foul odors are released.

3. Dry Mouth

Dryness in the mouth and bad smell of the tongue are also contributing factors towards halitosis in children. To treat the former, a child should be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids, especially water, which will keep the mouth moist and prevent bacterial build up. To get rid of rotten odors from the tongue, it should be regularly scraped with a toothbrush or plastic spoon to eliminate bacterial growth and other secretions from collecting at the back of the tongue.

4. Chronic Sinus Infection

One likely cause that could explain stinky breath in a child is chronic sinus infection. In this type of infection, fluid collects in the nasal cavities and sinuses and then drips down the throat. Thereafter, the fluid settles at the back of tongue where it becomes a feasting ground for the mouth's resident bacteria. The latter feed off this mucus drainage and decompose it, which results in the production of odorous gases.Frequent colds and cough, persistent colds, blocked and snotty nose, yellow drainage from eyes and exhaustion, all point towards a possible sinus infection, which should be checked by a doctor.

As far as home remedies are concerned, saltwater can be sprinkled into the child's nostrils every day or the child can be given a steam bath with the help of a facial steamer or simply by running hot water in the bathtub. Although sinus infection is one of the common reasons behind bad breath in children, this cause often goes unsuspected.

5. Foreign Object

Bad breath may sometimes be the result of a foreign object lodged inside the nose of a child. For example, if any food item or small toy accidentally gets stuck in the nasal passage, it will start to decompose within the nose leading to putrid odors.

6. Gastroesophageal Reflux

Another possible cause for bad breath in children could be gastro esophageal reflux, which refers to regurgitation of stomach acids up into the throat. Acid smelling breath, colicky behavior, frequent spitting up, discomfort while sleeping, hoarseness of throat and abdominal discomfort after eating are all indicative of gastro esophageal reflux. These signs should not be ignored and immediate treatment should be given to the child.

Eating habits may have to be altered; instead of larger feedings, parents will have to persuade their kids to take smaller but more frequent feedings. Moreover, the child should not lie down after his meals and should stay in an upright position for at least an hour to prevent food items to travel up to the throat. Sleeping right after a meal should be highly discouraged.

How to Deal With Bad Breath in Children

Although parents tend to get alarmed and upset if their children suffer from bad breath, they need to realize that there are many remedies that can help to eliminate this problem.

1. Keep a Good Oral Hygiene

The simplest preventive measure is maintaining good oral hygiene. As far as babies are concerned, their gums and teeth can simply be wiped by a lukewarm towel after every feeding and before going to bed. For toddlers, teeth should be brushed at least twice a day and once preferably before bedtime. For kids who are two years or older, toothpaste the size of a pea should be used.

2. Avoid Mouthwash

Contrary to popular belief, children should not be given a mouthwash to combat bad breath in children because instead of eliminating the problem, mouthwash simply hides it. Thus, the best solution to get rid of halitosis is to encourage regular brushing of teeth.

3. Prevent Bacteria

If the child is prone to sucking his fingers or thumb, parents should encourage him to wash his hands more frequently in order to prevent bacteria and other germs from entering the mouth. Similarly, if babies are being given pacifiers, the latter should be frequently sterilized in boiling hot water.

4. Teach Your Child to Brush Teeth

Although parents do understand the immense significance of encouraging their child to brush their teeth, they don’t always tell their children the correct way of doing so. Till a child is seven years old, he is very unlikely to do a satisfactory job on his own while brushing his teeth. Hence, parents should actively participate in the teeth cleaning process and finish off the job if necessary. To create interest in children to brush their teeth, colorful toothbrushes with your child's favorite cartoon character can be bought. This will make the entire process more fun for both the parents and the kids.

5. See a Dentist on a Regular Basis

Other than maintaining good hygiene of the mouth, parents should take their children to the dentist on a regular basis. These dental check-ups will ensure that children have clean and healthy teeth.

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