Bad Breath in Children: Halitosis

Bad Breath in Children

Bad breath in children is called Halitosis. Halitosis is an offensive odor coming from the mouth, nose or airway. It is caused due to mucous secretions deposited on the tongue, between the teeth and the nose, which get decomposed causing an offensive odor. The bacteria thrive on the back of the tongue, below the gum line and in between the teeth and react with dental plaque and cavities causing halitosis. They release hydrogen sulfide that has “rotten egg” smell. The odor comes from sulfur compounds through exhaled air.

It can be an embarrassing problem for children. Bad breath is one of the symptoms of dental problems, nasal problems, sinusitis or dryness in the mouth.

Causes of bad breath in children

Halitosis is caused due to oral, non-oral or psychological problems.

In 85% of the cases, the bad breath in children is caused due to oral problems. The tongue is coated with epithelial cells, bacteria, and blood cells.

The oral conditions persistent with bad breath are:
an increase in the amount of protein in the diet decreased the flow of saliva, decreased intake of carbohydrates, an increase of dead epithelial cells in the mouth.

Oral sources of bad breath in children:

  • Dry mouth: the Decreased flow of saliva results in dry mouth. Saliva is essential for cleansing the teeth and mouth and destroying oral microorganisms. Mouth breathing also causes dry mouth, which in turn causes Halitosis.
  • Tongue: Bad breath comes from the bacteria on the dorsum of the tongue.
  • Dental problems: Food that gets stuck between the teeth gets decomposed and cause a foul smell. Dental plaque and cavities are also one of the causes. Poorly fitted dentures also cause bad breath.
  • Oral fungal infections: Children who take antibiotics develop Candida infections in the mouth. Children undergoing chemotherapy also develop bad breath due to fungal yeast infections.
  • Gum diseases: Gum diseases like Gingivitis and periodontitis cause bad breath.
  • Oral cancer: Oral cancer and its treatment cause tissue destruction, bleeding, and necrosis.


  • Hepatic problems: Liver failure and cirrhosis are associated with a sulfur or “rotten egg” smell from the mouth.
  • Respiratory problems: Bad breath results from mucous discharge from a runny nose, secretions dripping down to the throat and on to the tongue. The secretions are an excellent site for odor-causing bacteria, which produce sulfur compounds. Sinus infections also cause halitosis. Asthma is another cause for bad breath. Enlarged adenoids may lead to mouth breathing in asthmatic patients causing bad breath.
  • Tonsils: If a child’s tonsils have deep crypts, food and debris will accumulate in them, producing some halitosis.
  • Kidney Failure: Kidney failure causes uremia, which produces ammonia causing bad breath.
  • Gastric problems: Gases in the stomach and gastric infections cause halitosis.
  • Diabetes: Diabetic patients may develop bad breath.
  • Menses: Bad breath during menses is caused by transient gingivitis.


Phobia that halitosis still persists even after it is cured may require psychological treatment in children.

Treatment of Halitosis:

Maintain oral hygiene by regularly brushing and flossing your teeth. Since halitosis occurs at the back of the tongue, clean the surface of the tongue daily with a soft-bristled brush. Mouthwash is useful. Children should drink a lot of sugar-free fluids to avoid dry mouth. Chewing sugarless gum is also good.

Visit a dentist to treat all dental problems.

Prevention of Halitosis:

Children should brush their teeth regularly three times a day. Children below 8 years should take parents help in flossing. Drink plenty of fluids and eat more fibrous foods. Maintain regular visits with dentists. Chew sugarless gum as it cleanses the teeth. Brush the back of your tongue with a soft bristled brush regularly. Children with Halitosis should rinse their mouth with water frequently.

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.

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