Children and Halitosis: Tips for Diagnosis and Treatment

Children and Halitosis
Posted on 09/28/2018

From smoking to drinking too much coffee or soda, several things can cause adults to suffer from halitosis, or bad breath. Indulging in bad habits are a few reasons why a parent lives with halitosis, but why does this condition also affect their child? Children of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers, live with bad breath.

Don't allow bad breath to impact your child's self-esteem and relationships. Instead, read on for some valuable information about this condition, including how to get rid of it.

Symptoms of Halitosis

Suffering from bad breath after a meal or when you forget to brush your teeth in the morning isn't the same as halitosis. Halitosis is a collection of symptoms that are chronic and cannot be resolved by simply brushing one's teeth. Here are a few of the other symptoms associated with halitosis:

  • White film on the tongue and sides of the mouth
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Sour or metallic taste in the mouth
  • Need to constantly clear your throat
  • Burning tongue

In addition to the physical symptoms, halitosis can also have an emotional impact on children, as well. For example, other kids may bully them for their bad breath.

Causes of Halitosis in Children

If you suspect that your child suffers from chronic bad breath, learning the cause is the first step to treating the condition. Here are a few of the most common reasons why children suffer from halitosis:

  • Improper oral hygiene. When a child doesn't follow a strict routine, bacteria can flourish inside their mouth. When the bacteria mixes with saliva, it can cause chronic bad breath. If not treated, the bacteria can cause tooth decay, which can make the smell worse.
  • Tooth Abscess. In addition to poor oral hygiene, a tooth abscess, which is a pus-filled infected lump on the child's gums, can be caused by an injury.
  • Acid reflux. GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, causes stomach acid or food to travel back into the sufferer's esophagus. The odor and damage caused by GERD can cause chronic bad breath.
  • Tonsil stones. Also called tonsilloliths, these are small white stones that can grow in pockets on the tonsils. The stones are often covered in bacteria, which leads to chronic bad breath.

Chronic dry mouth is another one of the most common causes of halitosis in both children and adults. Saliva helps wash away bacteria from inside the mouth. When it is not present, bacteria will accumulate, and bad breath will follow. Dry mouth has many causes, including taking certain medications, such as antihistamines, and breathing or sleeping with your mouth open.

Treatment for Halitosis in Children

Once your dentist or pediatrician determines why your child is suffering from halitosis, you can begin treating the underlying cause. For example, if your child is simply not brushing or flossing their teeth regularly, your dentist will help you create a more thorough oral hygiene routine, which might include more frequent dental cleanings.

At home, you can help teach your child how to properly brush and floss. Provide them with rewards to encourage them to care for their teeth in the morning and before bed.

If your child is diagnosed with chronic acid reflux, you can combat it in several ways, such as by:

  • Avoiding triggers, such as spicy or acidic foods and beverages
  • Avoiding carbonated soda
  • Providing your child with an extra pillow. This will help elevate their head, which prevents stomach acid from moving back up the esophagus.
  • Avoiding feeding your child at least two to three hours before bed
  • Providing your child with smaller meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals

Your physician might recommend an antacid, or if the problem is severe, a prescription or over-the-counter medication that helps either reduce stomach acid or prevents it from reentering the esophagus.

Chronic dry mouth may also be the culprit. If this is the case, your dentist or pediatrician will first pinpoint the cause and provide a suitable solution. For example, your child might be sleeping with their mouth open during the night. The reason might be sleep apnea, a deviated septum, or chronic sinus issues.

You can find specialized lozenges, mouthwashes, and other products that can help moisten your child's mouth, as well.

If your teenager is suffering from halitosis, the underlying reason could be smoking. In addition to reducing the amount of saliva in their mouth, the chemicals used to produce cigarettes can linger inside the mouth and throat for several hours, which can make the issue even worse. Speak with your pediatrician to create a plan to help your teenager quit smoking.

Halitosis, or chronic bad breath, is a common issue in children that can be diagnosed and resolved. If you have any additional questions about your child's oral health, contact our team of professionals at Treasured Smiles Pediatric Dentistry.