About halitosis or bad breath in children and teenagers
Most children and teenagers have ‘bad breath’ when they wake up. This usually goes away after they have something to eat and drink and clean their teeth. This sort of bad breath isn’t anything to worry about.
Other causes of bad breath in children and teenagers include:
- gum disease (gingivitis)
- tooth decay or tooth abscesses
- mouth or throat infections
- a blocked nose
In teenagers, causes of bad breath might also include:
- extreme diets – for example, a high-protein diet
- eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa
- poor dental hygiene, particularly if they wear braces or other orthodontic devices
Rarely, medical conditions might make a child’s breath smell bad or unusual. These conditions include illnesses like type-1 diabetes, type-2 diabetes and some lung diseases. Kidney or liver problems might cause bad breath, but this is rare too.
Bad breath is also called halitosis.
Medical help: when to get it for children with bad breath
Here’s when to take your child to the GP:
- You’re worried about your child’s bad breath.
- Your child’s bad breath is extreme in the morning.
- Your child has bad breath, and you have a family history of any of the medical conditions above.
- 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 your child to the dentist.
Treatment for bad breath
Good dental hygiene is the best way to prevent and manage bad breath.
Your child should brush their teeth and tongue twice a day. Children can also start flossing or using interdental brushes once they start school.
The following articles have information about cleaning, brushing, toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss and interdental brushes for children of different ages:
- Dental care for babies
- Dental care for toddlers
- Dental care for preschoolers
- Dental care for school-age children
- Dental care for pre-teens: 9-11 years
- Dental care for teenagers: 12-18 years.
Children should also get regular check-ups with a dentist. Ask your dentist how often your child needs a dental check-up – it’s usually recommended every 6-12 months.
Make sure your child drinks plenty of water and limits sugary drinks like fruit juice, soft drinks and flavoured milks and caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea and energy drinks.
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, they might need antibiotics.