Bad Breath in Toddlers

Common Causes of Bad Breath in Toddlers

Severe bad breath in a child can occur in children of all ages (in some cases even in infants). The medical term for this condition is halitosis.

Causes of bad breath in a toddlers

There are several causes of halitosis in a child – among the main ones:

  • Certain drinks or foods (such as onions or garlic, corn, cheese, and certain juices) can make the odor worse for a while. Excessive consumption of sweets can also be a contributing factor to a variety of pathogenic bacteria in the mouth that exude a foul odor;
  • Lack of oral hygiene – since children generally do not like brushing their teeth and do it infrequently, there is an unpleasant odor, because without regular brushing, bacteria begin to accumulate in the oral cavity. The smell can be a symptom of tooth decay or gum problems, among other things;
  • Fungus in the mouth. A healthy mouth normally maintains a balance of microbes and fungi, but if that balance is not maintained, the mouth becomes inflamed and smells bad. An imbalance can occur as a result of an improper diet (for example, if a child eats a lot of foods that contain starch). This disease appears as white spots on the inside of the tongue, lips or cheeks. If you see these signs, you need to show your baby to a doctor;
  • Plaque on the child’s tongue. Keep in mind that in addition to teeth children need to brush their tongue, because food particles accumulate in the tongue irregularities, which causes bacteria to multiply and there is a bad smell. Tongue should be cleaned regularly. Babies should wipe their tongue with damp, clean gauze;
  • Mouth breathing – this process contributes to dryness in the mouth, which can result in a bad smell;
  • Mucus in the sinus cavities. Mucus accumulating in the nasopharynx and sinuses is a fairly common pathology that results in bad breath and an unpleasant taste. Children with chronic sinusitis or seasonal allergies are also prone to halitosis, because breathing through the mouth dries out the natural humidity in the nasopharynx, and the accumulated mucus creates odor. Some cold or anti-allergy nasal drops can also provoke it;
  • Problems with tonsils with chronic tonsillitis. In this case, they begin to multiply pathogenic microbes, which makes them loose. Sometimes lumps of white-yellow color, which have a pungent smell, come out of the tonsils. Usually they are the remains of food trapped in the tonsils and began the process of rotting. With this problem, it is necessary to rinse the child’s throat after each meal with plain water. It is also necessary to remove dairy products (cheese and cottage cheese) and seeds from his diet;
  • Gastrointestinal disorders – due to an increase in the level of acidity of the gastric secretion, the child has a bad smell from the mouth. Sometimes it occurs as a result of eating food that is too heavy for the baby;
  • Fear, stress or severe emotional distress – this usually causes drying out of the mucosa or, conversely, an abundance of saliva. Both of these factors can cause bad odor.

Risk Factors

Factors that contribute to the development of halitosis in children:

  • The air in the room where the child is is constantly dry;
  • Activity and excessive mobility of the baby, which causes him to sweat a lot, causing dry mouth;
  • Development of any acute respiratory infections (with the flu or any cold, the respiratory organs dry out, and they accumulate a lot of mucus, which is a source of additional protein for microbes (which, when broken down, form sulfur compounds);
  • Various inflammatory processes of a chronic nature in the respiratory organs – bronchitis, angina or pneumonia;
  • The presence of a baby with tooth decay or periodontal disease;
  • Allergic runny nose, which causes excess mucus to accumulate in the cavities of the mouth and nose;
  • Inflammation of the adenoids.
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In the case of diseases of the digestive system, associated symptoms are – flatulence, changes in stool, regurgitation and belching, as well as constipation.

If there is inflammation in the area of the nasopharynx, among other signs are prominent folds near the lips and nose, as well as swelling under the eyes. Also in this case, the child will snore in his sleep and breathe through his mouth.

In addition, halitosis may be accompanied by the following manifestations:

  • Loosen teeth or toothache;
  • An unpleasant sensation in the throat (tickling, “lump”, pain);
  • Mucus dripping down the back of the throat;
  • Breathing through the nose becomes difficult;
  • Nausea as well as belching and heartburn;
  • Dryness in the mouth;
  • Feeling of thirst;
  • Unpleasant taste;
  • Cough with blood.

Types of bad breath found in a child

There are several types of bad smells that occur in a baby’s mouth.

Acetone or vinegar odor. This smell, especially if the baby also has a high fever, is a very dangerous signal. This symptom is caused by nondiabetic ketoacidosis, which often occurs in children of different ages. In this case, call the doctor immediately and give the baby boiled water to drink in small portions (teaspoonful) and often until he arrives.

The faint smell of acetone can indicate pancreatic malfunction, kidney disease, dysbacteriosis, worm infestations, diabetes mellitus. Therefore, if such a symptom appears, it is necessary to be examined by a doctor as soon as possible.

Putrid smell is usually due to poor oral hygiene, any ENT disease (pharyngitis, sore throat or tonsillitis; against this, the baby has a cough, stuffy nose and white tongue), cavities, stomatitis, diseases of the esophagus or low stomach acidity (a child often complains of pain in the stomach). In this case it is necessary to consult an ENT, dentist and gastroenterologist and make sure that the child brushes his teeth regularly and has a proper drinking regime.

A pusy odor is basically a symptom of chronic inflammation, as well as an overgrowth of lymphoid tissue in the child’s nasopharynx. The glands are covered with pus, which causes the formation of plugs that create a bad smell. Additional symptoms are a runny nose, fever, plaque on the throat, and a coated tongue. A pediatrician should be consulted because treatment with antibiotics may be necessary.

If the child has sour breath, it is possible that he has increased acidity in the stomach or inflammation began there. In this case, you need to examine your child at a gastroenterologist – he may have gastritis. Another reason could be a discharge of gastric secretion into the child’s esophagus, in which case he will feel pain behind the chest and heartburn.

In the case of a sweet odor, liver disease may be a possible cause. Therefore, it is important to visit a gastroenterologist as soon as possible – this symptom may indicate hepatitis or cirrhosis of the liver.

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Chemical odor can be a sign of diseases of the digestive organs (especially the gallbladder). It occurs when the biliary tracts are dysfunctional.

Chlorine smell with metal in it is a sign of periodontal disease and bleeding gums. A pediatric dentist should be consulted.

If you smell iodine, you should consult an endocrinologist, because this symptom may be a sign of an overabundance of iodine in the body. This condition usually occurs due to prolonged exposure to the sea, in the case of thyroid disease or after taking iodized medicines. Such an odor can be caused by infection with a bacterium from the Klebsiella group, which enters the body with unwashed fruit – it can provoke acute gastrointestinal infections.

In the case of bile odor, an ultrasound of the abdominal organs should be performed and the necessary general tests taken – this symptom may be a sign of poor bile flow from the gallbladder, cholecystitis and biliary dyskinesia.

Smell of iron in the baby can be a signal of iron deficiency anemia. Therefore, a blood test is required to determine hemoglobin levels. If the diagnosis is confirmed, you need to take vitamin complexes that contain iron. Causes can also be high acidity, gastrointestinal diseases, gastritis and dysbacteriosis.

The smell of urine indicates the development of diabetes or kidney disease. It occurs due to low levels of insulin, as well as disorders of carbohydrate metabolism.

Fecal odor is quite rare and usually associated with hereditary problems. It occurs when there is a disorder, intestinal obstruction. It can be diagnosed by a gastroenterologist or endocrinologist.

Smell reeking of rotten eggs, belching and white plaque on the tongue are signs of liver disease, peptic ulcer, gastritis, bile outflow problems. In this case, the child should be taken to a gastroenterologist.

In the case of yeast odor, candidiasis is usually diagnosed. It is not uncommon for this smell to accompany stomach diseases as well.

Diagnosing Bad Breath in a Child

Diagnosis involves analysis of complaints and anamnesis – how long ago bad breath occurred, at what time of day it usually occurs, whether it is related to food consumption, whether there are any diseases (in chronic form) of the gums, mouth, nose and sinuses, liver, gastrointestinal tract; whether there are any difficulties in breathing through the nose, etc.

The doctor also evaluates the degree of odor using the organoleptic method (its intensity in this case can be rated between 0-5). At the same time before the procedure it is not allowed to use breath fresheners, mouthwash, as well as drink and eat.

The pediatric dentist examines the tongue and oral cavity (the tongue may have yellowish or white plaque on it). A pediatric pulmonologist should be consulted to rule out lung or bronchial disease, as well as a pediatric gastroenterologist and in some cases a pediatric otolaryngologist.


A blood test is performed through biochemical analysis (in this case the levels of glucose, liver and kidney enzymes are analyzed). The patient is also given a stool test to detect the possible presence of worm eggs.

Instrumental diagnostics

Instrumental diagnostic procedures are also performed.

Sulfide monitoring, in which, using a special device called a halimeter, the doctor calculates the number of sulfur compounds in the air that the patient exhales.

Pharyngoscopy (examination of the throat) and laryngoscopy (examination of the larynx) are performed. In the second case, optical instruments – a flexible fibrolaryngoscope and a rigid laryngoscope – are used for a more detailed examination.

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The nose with nasopharynx is checked through an endoscope.

In some cases, to rule out diseases of the paranasal sinuses, a CT or X-ray of this area is performed.

Treatment of bad breath in a child

In the case of halitosis in your child, it is necessary to exclude or seriously limit the consumption of sweets. You can replace them with honey and sour fruits (oranges, apples, etc.), because they can increase saliva secretion.

If the smell continues to persist for a long time, you should always take your child to see a doctor to identify the cause of this symptom and find a way to eliminate it.

Home remedies and herbal treatments

There are several methods of folk treatment for halitosis in a child.

You can rinse your mouth with a decoction of chamomile, sage, mint or strawberry. You need to take 1 tbsp. ingredient, pour boiling water over it, and then strain when cooled. Drink 3-4 p./day.

To revitalize the gums, you should use oak bark – it’s a well-known fact. It is necessary to pour boiling water over 1 tbsp. ingredient and allow to infuse for half an hour. Then this tincture should be rinsed in the throat and mouth.

To freshen the breath, you can use chewing gum, which is made using the folk method. It is necessary to melt beeswax (100 g), then add to it 10 drops of lemon juice, 3 drops of peppermint oil, and 50 grams of honey. This mixture should be stirred until a homogeneous mass, and then cooled and rolled into balls. The resulting “gum” should be chewed several times a day – it helps to eliminate unpleasant odor and has a positive effect on the oral cavity.

Take mint (1 tbsp. chopped leaves) and pour boiling water over it (0.5 l), and then insist for 30 minutes. The resulting infusion rinse your mouth several times a day.

If there is a bad smell due to gastric pathology, it is recommended for 1 month to take a tincture of wormwood – 1 cup/day.

Complications and Consequences

The consequence of halitosis can be the social isolation of the child, which can severely reduce the quality of life, depression.


To prevent the development of bad breath in a child, you need to adhere to the following rules:

  • You need to thoroughly brush your baby’s teeth 2 times a day, right from the time he has his first tooth. When they are older, they should be taught how to use a brush and properly remove plaque from their teeth;
  • The child should follow an age-appropriate diet. Introduce fruit and vegetables into his diet, as well as foods rich in calcium and phosphorus;
  • Eliminate chocolate, sugar, and other sweets and replace them with honey;
  • The child should drink plenty of fluids, observing the necessary daily norms;
  • Regular check-ups at the dentist to prevent cavities.


Child’s bad breath can be eliminated quickly and without complications, if timely and correct measures were taken to detect and eliminate it. Often it is enough to visit a dentist or gastroenterologist and start performing the necessary hygiene procedures to return healthy and fresh breath. If the bad smell is ignored, however, a favorable prognosis is not to be expected.

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