Ask the Dentist: Why Does My Child Have Bad Breath

By Zachary Visconti September 21, 2017

Any parent can tell you that bad breath in children happens all the time. You might ask yourself ‘why?’ in search of an easy fix. Maybe you worry that bad breath will negatively affect your child’s social skills.

In any case, you’ve come to the right place. Bad breath in children is both simpler and more complicated than most people expect.

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Bad breath, called "Halitosis" in the medical world, is a super easy fix if you know what’s causing it. But as it turns out, there are more causes of bad breath in children than you would imagine. Several things can cause bad breath, as listed below.


When a child hasn’t had enough water, their saliva isn’t able to wash out their mouth as efficiently. As a result, dehydration allows bacteria to exist in the mouth leading to bad breath.

Sinus Infection

Young children can develop sinus infections just like adults. Sinus infections cause mucus to drip down the back of the throat into the mouth, causing chronic bad breath.

Build-Up of Bad Bacteria on the Tongue

For kids, it’s especially common to develop bacteria on the back of the tongue. Most of the time this happens as a result of poor oral hygiene. Just like other types of bacteria in your child's mouth, this too causes seriously bad breath.

Gum Disease

When a child has poor oral hygiene, gingivitis is another common occurrence. When a child's gums become inflamed, it's a warning sign for the gingivitis. They’re also prime conditions for halitosis.

Foreign Objects

Although it's not as common, there have been cases of children accidentally lodging objects into their nose. When this happens, the objects tend to harbor significant amounts of bacteria, often leading to bad breath.

Bacteria nfd lincoln ne bad breath in children

Bacteria's Role in Bad Breath

You may have noticed by now that the vast majority of causes of bad breath in children reference bacteria as an underlying cause. While many types of bacteria flourish within our bodies, both good and bad, it's easy for the bad kinds thrive inside the mouth.

Significant amounts of bacteria live beneath our tongues and within our throats. Research has established that this bacteria produces VSCs, or Volatile Sulfur Compounds. These have the potential to give someone “rancid breath,” as it’s often called.

Solving Bad Breath in Children

1. Make sure your child is drinking enough water.

Kids are often much more active than adults. They can also tend not to be as in tune with their bodies as adults. While the amount of water per day varies based on a few factors, it’s safe to say that your kids should have at least 6 cups of water per day. As they age, this number goes up.

2. Help your child with oral health and home care.

While it's possible that your child's bad breath is from something else, poor oral health is the main cause of bad breath.

3. Encourage probiotics at home.

Tons of natural probiotics can help your child’s good bacteria fight off the bad bacteria, promoting the growth of healthy cells throughout your child’s body and strengthening their immune systems. Find natural probiotics in things like yogurt, pickles, dark chocolate, and many more household foods.

4. Bring your child to the doctor.

If it seems like there may be another problem beneath your child's breath, don't hesitate to take them to the doctor. You'll usually spot sinus infections, tonsillitis, and foreign objects before their ensuing bad breath, but if not, the doctor can help.

5. Call your dentist.

Similarly, you can contact your dentist if you aren't sure about your child's breath. If you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to contact us, even if it's just for a phone call. We also offer free consultations and would be glad to help however we can.

The information in this article is provided by Nebraska Family Dentistry. They are located at 5500 O Street. You can also reach them by calling 402-413-7141.