Causes of Bad Breath in Kids & How to Deal With Them?

As adults, we are conscious of our oral hygiene and conform to measures to protect our mouths. But with kids, it may sometimes be difficult to get them to maintain their oral hygiene. This means your child may sometimes end up with many decayed teeth or bad breath.

An unpleasant smell from the mouth along with bad breath can be because of various reasons other than a dirty mouth. It can also be an indication of other illnesses, sore throat, influenza, etc.


Sometimes the smell may be because of dry mouth or ingestion of a foreign body. Whatever the reason is, you must visit your dentist to tackle bad breath in kids and use home remedies to reduce it.

Causes of bad breath in kids

The reason that your little one has a bad breath can either be purely because of oral problems or some other associated pathology.

Poor oral hygiene

The most obvious reason that your child has bad breath is that they are not maintaining sufficient oral health. The child may not be brushing correctly, or for adequate time.

If the tongue is not clean, bacteria harbor over it and cause halitosis. After every meal, food debris gets lodged in between the teeth and under the gums.

This creates a foul smell from the mouth. Some bacteria have a more significant role to play in emitting foul smell as compared to others. (1)

Unhealthy gums show bleeding, recession, and accumulation of plaque within them. This is another factor that contributes to halitosis.

Dry mouth

Xerostomia is a condition where the salivary glands mal-function reduces the saliva production. This dry environment in the mouth is also responsible for the unpleasant smell.

When a person is sleeping, saliva production is cut down. Therefore, we have a terrible smelling mouth when we wake up in the morning. This condition of a dry mouth is also present in other situations like stress, or some medical conditions.

Tooth decay or Abscess

Cavities are common in kids because of the candies and sweets they eat. If this decay remains uncontrolled, it spreads into the deeper parts of the tooth.

Often, a very deeply decayed tooth gives out a bad smell. This happens because of the cavitation lodges bacteria and food remnants. If the decay forms an abscess around the tooth, there will be pus discharge, which is accompanied by a foul smell.

Foreign body

Kids younger than five years of age tend to put anything in their mouth and nose. If the child puts a small object such as a bead, or small toys in their nostrils it can cause unpleasant breath. (2)

If the child is wearing prostheses like plates or space maintainers, these can also contribute to a foul smell from the mouth or nostrils. (3)

Mouth breathing

Breathing through the nose is important because it filters and purifies the air we take in. Kids may breathe through their mouths if there is an obstruction of the nasal passage, or if they have a tendency to keep their mouth open. (4)

Mouth breathing contributes to tooth decay in addition to bad breath.

Respiratory problems

We are aware that the oral and nasal passages are interconnected. Kids may have a blocked sinus when they are suffering from cold. This means they have a runny nose or a sore throat in addition to bad breath.

This happens because when the respiratory passage is inflamed, it becomes infected with bacteria.


Kids are predisposed to developing tonsillar problems. The tonsils may get inflamed (tonsillitis) or the child may have tonsillar stones called tonsilloliths.

These stones have collections of bacteria, mucus, and food debris- all of which amount to bad breath. (5)

Other medical conditions

Though uncommon in kids, systemic illnesses are also responsible for bad breath. Juvenile diabetes, kidney problems, and liver disorders are some conditions which have bad breath as a side effect. (6)

These are rare in kids, but always keep your doctor in the loop about anything unusual that you notice in your child, besides bad breath.


If your child is taking antibiotics for a month or longer, they may develop an altered taste sensation in the mouth. Tablets given for iron deficiency will cause your child to get a metallic taste in the mouth and even an unpleasant smell. Bronchodilators and anti-histamines can also create a foul odor.

Treatment of bad breath

Bad breath is not a life-threatening or critical illness. But it affects the overall well-being of a child. If one is called out or singled out because of an unpleasant smell, the child will feel embarrassed. This can psychologically affect a young one.

Bad breath can be eliminated if you can get rid of the underlying cause. In case the unpleasant breath is only due to oral causes, here are a few steps that you can take for your child.

  • Ensure that your child brushes in the right manner, for the right amount of time and frequency. Make it a habit for them to brush in the morning and just before bedtime. It is best to supervise a child’s brushing.
  • If your child has braces, they will require extra care while brushing.
  • Cleaning the tongue to get rid of bacteria is also important.
  • Have your child use an alcohol-free mouthwash, and floss as recommended by your dentist.
  • Include a balance of all the required foods in your child’s meal. Avoid feeding them excess sugar, candy, and carbonated beverages. Watch the intake of snacks in between meals and try and keep it to a minimum.
  • Make sure your kid is drinking enough water through the day. Dehydration is one of the causes of dry mouth.
  • Schedule a dental checkup with the pedodontist regularly. If your child shows prolonged bad breath, bleeding gums or any signs of tooth decay, visit your dentist for the necessary treatment.

Other than this, visit your doctor to determine if there is any other reason for the unpleasant breath. If any health condition has a role to play in it, seeking treatment for it will help your child regain a fresh breath again.


Bad breath in kids is just as embarrassing as it is for an adult. Remember kids may not exactly be able to explain to you what is bothering them.

The whole responsibility lies with the parent to look for symptoms and see a doctor. You will get better results if you practice good oral hygiene with your child since the beginning.


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