Patients and their families often come to us with concerns about bad breath. Children aren’t typically able to smell their own breath; if they are aware their breath is bad they were probably told by a peer or adult. As a parent, bad breath in your child can be a concern socially as well as raising a concern about the child’s oral health.
Preventing bad breath can be as simple as improving your child’s oral hygiene routine. An ideal routine focuses on removing the plaque that accumulates on our teeth throughout the day and night. When plaque isn’t regularly removed through brushing and flossing it can combine with minerals and proteins found in our saliva and harden into calculus. Calculus looks like a chalky deposit and ranges in color from cream to a dark brown or black. This calculus is very difficult to remove at home. It can harbor bacteria that can lead to gum disease and also can produce volatile compounds that can cause bad breath. If your child has a small amount of calculus it can be removed during their bi-annual cleaning with us. If your child has a larger amount of calculus or gingivitis we may recommend a deeper cleaning using an ultrasonic scaler which helps to break down the calculus so it can be removed.
Another simple thing that can be added to a child’s oral health routine is a tongue scraper. A tongue scraper removes the film that accumulates on the tongue. This film can contain bacteria that contributes to bad breath. Removing the film regularly can often help with bad breath.
Other possible causes of bad breath can be cavities or gingivitis—an early form of gum disease that is characterized by red and puffy gums. Children should be seen regularly at the dentist so cavities don’t sit untreated and gingivitis can be addressed as soon as possible.
Some children may have decreased saliva production due to mouth breathing or medication. Using mints or gum can help to increase saliva production which can help with bad breath.
Bad breath may also be caused by chronic sinus problems or gastrointestinal issues. In these cases it would be a good idea to have the child evaluated by a pediatrician.
In conclusion, if you are concerned about your child having bad breath, please keep a record of when you or your child notice that their breath is bad so we can more easily find the cause. In all cases though, a reliable oral health routine and regular visits to the dentist will improve the chances of fresh breath.