Bad Breath in Children

Stinky breath may not seem to be a big deal in young children, and it often isn’t. However, it may be a warning system that something is happening that should be addressed. There is a reason if your young one has breath that will blow you away! We will discuss what may be the culprit in making your child's breath unpleasant and also ways to prevent halitosis, which is the medical term for this issue.

Halitosis Causes

Many factors may contribute to a child's bad breath. When awakening in the morning, it is common that their breath may not smell good. When they eat foods that have onions, garlic, or other strong ingredients, or if they have a cold, they may have bad breath. These causes are not uncommon and usually are only temporary. But, if you frequently notice that your child has bad breath, it may be due to a condition that needs intervention. 

Halitosis may be a warning sign that some other condition is going on. It can be a symptom of many different things. First, we must identify the problem and find the root cause. 

  • Poor dental hygiene – When your child does not make oral hygiene a daily ritual, their mouth can have harmful bacteria multiplying out of control, and decaying food particles in the teeth and on the tongue won’t smell good, either. Brushing twice and flossing once daily, along with regular six-month appointments for professional cleanings and assessments, is a routine that is crucial to their oral health. Otherwise, dental caries may form and cause odor due to decay. It is imperative that children wearing braces clean around their brackets, wires, and bands after every meal. 
  • Gum disease – When plaque builds up on your child's teeth that is not removed with brushing and flossing, gingivitis can happen. This inflammation of the gums causes them to swell, become red, and sometimes bleed. If gingivitis isn't treated, periodontitis can occur. Periodontitis damages the gum and can even lead to tooth and bone loss around the teeth.
  • Dry mouth – When there is not enough moisture in your child's mouth, either because your child is not drinking enough fluids or not producing saliva, their mouth can become dry. Saliva washes the mouth, and if it is not there, it can lead to halitosis. Your child's mouth breathing can cause a dry mouth. They may do this when their nose is stuffy, or it may be just a habit. It would be best if you discussed habitual mouth breathing with their pediatrician so they can rule out an obstruction in their airways. Other causes of dry mouth are smoking (more often in adults) and some medications. 
  • Congestion or infection in the mouth, nose, throat, or lungs – Infection can cause your child's breath to smell icky. Sinusitis is a common reason for bad breath. When your little one's sinuses are full or infection has set in, the mucus produced can give off quite a foul odor. Infection of the tonsils is called tonsillitis and is due to a virus or bacteria accumulation. This illness usually occurs only in those over two years of age (2). The bad breath will usually go away when the congestion or infection does.
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) – This is a condition you may see in your child where the stomach fluids or the acids produced from digestion travel back into the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach). These fluids break down the food in the stomach, so the fluids may not smell good. Burping may have the same type of odor.
  • Tonsil stones – Your child's tonsils are at the back of the mouth and have folds where food can get trapped. These food particles can harden into calcium deposits called tonsil stones that have an unpleasant odor. 



No matter how old your child is or what condition their mouth is in, it is never too late to begin taking steps to create the healthiest mouth possible. Here are some tips you can implement to help your child prevent or eliminate bad breath:

Good Oral Hygiene is one of the most important aspects of preventing or treating bad breath. Children and Teenagers should:

  • Brush twice daily with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste. Brush your tongue as well because bacteria can build up there.
  • Floss at least once daily.
  • For children under three, the ADA recommends that parents use only a tiny amount of toothpaste, much like the size of a grain of rice.
  • After three years of age, a pea-sized amount of toothpaste should be used.
  • An adult should supervise young children to ensure they are brushing correctly and spitting out the toothpaste after brushing. 
  • Visit the dentist every six months.

It is never too early to begin healthy oral hygiene routines to prevent future problems! Help your babies by:

  • Starting with good oral hygiene before their first tooth appears. 
  • Clean their gums with a soft, clean cloth and water daily.
  • Schedule a dental check-up soon after their first tooth breaks through. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that they see the dentist no later than their first birthday.
  • After the first appointment, schedule visits every six months. 


There are additional methods to prevent bad breath and ensure your children have a healthy mouth. It is helpful to eat a balanced diet and limit their consumption of sugary foods and drinks that may cause more bacteria in the mouth, which leads to increased plaque and a greater risk of tooth decay (4).  

Encourage them to drink plenty of water to keep their mouths moist and rinse away food particles and bacteria. 

Chewing crunchy fruits and vegetables at the end of meals may help remove food particles, making bacteria less likely to stick to the teeth. 


How Can We Help?

At Jungle Roots Dentistry, we focus on children. Children's dental health is our specialty, and we can help you identify and treat the reason for your child's bad breath. Their dental concerns are ours, and the number one priority is to minimize those concerns. Halitosis that doesn’t go away is a problem. Of course, prevention is the first step, and we want to assure you that we will do everything possible, with your attention and assistance, to keep your child’s mouth healthy. If bad breath becomes an issue, we will guide you through other steps to minimize or eliminate unpleasant odors from their mouth. We are privileged to be your child’s Dental Home. Call us today for an appointment!



  1. Bawazir O. A. (2021). Risk Factors, Diagnosis, and Management of Halitosis in Children: A Comprehensive Review. The Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice22(8), 959–963.
  2. Bad Breath (Halitosis). Cleveland Clinic. Last reviewed July 18, 2022. Accessed October 11, 2022.
  3. Bad Breath. Raising Last reviewed June 5, 2019. Accessed October 11, 2022.,Good%20dental%20hygiene%20is%20the%20best%20way%20to%20prevent%20bad,drinks%20like%20coke%20and%20coffee
  4. Causes of Bad Breath in Children. Medical News Today. Last reviewed March 9, 2022. Accessed October 11, 2022.



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