About bad breath in children and teenagers

Most children have ‘bad breath’ when they wake up. This usually goes away after your child has something to eat and drink and cleans her teeth. This sort of bad breath isn’t anything to worry about.

Other causes of bad breath in children and teenagers include mouth or throat infections, a blocked nose, sinusitis, gum disease (gingivitis), tooth decay or abscesses.

In teenagers causes of bad breath might also include extreme diets (for example, a high-protein diet), illnesses like anorexia nervosa, poor dental hygiene (particularly if your teenage child wears braces or other orthodontic devices) or smoking.

Rarely, medical problems might make a child’s breath smell bad or unusual. These problems include illnesses like lung disease, type-1 diabetes and type-2 diabetes. Kidney or liver problems might cause bad breath, but this is rare too. If you have a family history of these problems, let your doctor know.

Bad breath is also called halitosis.

Does your child need to see a doctor about bad breath?

You should take your child to the GP if:

  • you’re worried about your child’s bad breath
  • your child’s bad breath is extreme in the morning
  • your child’s bad breath doesn’t go away after trying the treatments below.

If your child has tooth decay, sensitive teeth or discoloured teeth, it’s a good idea to take him to the dentist.

Treatment for bad breath

Good dental hygiene is the best way to prevent bad breath.

Your child should brush her teeth and tongue twice a day, as well as floss every day. She could also try using an antibacterial mouthwash.

Make sure your child drinks plenty of water and cuts down on sugary drinks and caffeinated drinks like coke and coffee.

If a medical issue is causing your child’s bad breath, your doctor will discuss other treatment options with you. For example, if your child has an infection, he might need antibiotics.