Exploring: What Causes Bad Breath in Kids?

This blog is for informational purposes and doesn’t establish a doctor-patient relationship. Learn more.

Okay! Let’s talk dragon breath. 

You know what I’m talking about – some kids wake up in the morning with really scary morning breath! Parents want to know how on earth a 6-year-old can have such bad breath. But not only is bad breath in kids common – it’s often easy to treat. 
Wondering what’s causing bad breath in your kids? Today, we’ll be exploring why your toddler or child might have bad breath – even after brushing – and how you can get rid of bad breath after identifying the underlying cause.

What causes bad breath in kids?

At the Expedition Pediatric Dentistry Office, we find there are three main causes of bad breath in kids – the mouth, the tonsils, and post-nasal drip.

Bad Breath in Kids Caused by Tonsils or Post-Nasal Drip

If the bad breath in your toddler or child is coming from further back – like the tonsils or post nasal drip –  that’s when it’s best to see your primary care physician or pediatrician. A sinus infection, blocked nasal passage, or enlarged infected tonsils may require additional treatment. Your PCP or pediatrician will likely refer your child to a pediatric otolaryngologist who will consider treatment options and make recommendations. 

Bad Breath in Kids Coming from the Mouth

You’re in luck if it’s coming from the tongue or mouth. The mouth is the easiest place to address when talking about what causes bad breath in kids!

The best treatments here are better brushing, tongue scraping, and mouth rinse. 

Better brushing.

Many parents find that their child has bad breath, even after brushing. So, the first place to consider is if the brushing technique or time needs to improve. To work on technique, you can use plaque-disclosing tablets or solution to help identify areas that need better brushing. A power toothbrush, also known as an electric toothbrush or spin brush, can help improve the brushing quality and potentially help with bad breath. 

Read more about other dental milestones for kids, and at what age they can take on their own dental routine.

Tongue scraper. 

Once your child has mastered their brushing routine, the next option will be to make sure their tongue is being cleaned. Often the malodor is a result of bacteria that live on the tongue so cleaning the tongue thoroughly can help eliminate bad breath. Tongue cleaning can be done with a toothbrush but many kids find it hard to do or that it tickles too much. But thankfully there are a couple other options. 

A tongue scraper is tool with a small investment and potentially big results. Haven’t used one before? Tongue scrapers are a funky-looking device that is either a triangle or curve designed for scraping from back to front of the tongue. Letting your child pick out a tongue scraper at the store might get them excited to use something novel in their oral hygiene routine. 

You don’t even have to buy something to be able to scrape the tongue properly. A spoon is actually a really comfortable tool for a kid since they know it and are familiar with it. You can keep a spoon in the bathroom next to their toothbrush so they can make scraping their tongue part of their dental routine. 

How to use a tongue scraper?

The best method for using a tongue scraper or spoon is to scrape the tongue from back to front. With kids, you’ll want to make sure that they’re getting their whole tongue to remove as much bacteria causing bad breath as possible. 

Another option for addressing bad breath in kids from home is mouthwash. 

Of course, for little kids the rinse-and-spit technique of mouthwash is a skill that takes some practice. The best way to teach kids how to use mouthwash is for them to see you do it as a parent.  A lot of times, they want to be just like you! Kids can learn how to use mouthwash pretty fast just by watching you do it and practicing along with water. 

Parents often brush their teeth way after their kids go to bed, so kids never really see their parents participate in that activity.  I would encourage you to make brushing your teeth part of their bedtime routine! Show them so that they can practice rinsing and spitting and once they’ve mastered that skill, then you can introduce a bad breath-specific kids’ mouth rinse.

One note – we definitely want to make sure it’s a kids’ mouthwash. Why? Because the adult ones often have alcohol which is not appropriate for kids and can dry out the mouth. So, even if you find one that you really like, it’s not always something you want to share with your kiddos – they’re probably not going to like that minty flavor, anyways!

We find that kids like bubblegum, strawberry, or something that’s fun and interesting when it comes to mouthwash.  Therabreath for Kids, which is specifically for bad breath and for children, tends to be really effective at controlling bad breath.

The other benefit of a kid-specific mouthrinse, like Therabreath, is that it will also have fluoride and help prevent cavities. Double whammy!

Your Pediatric Dentist in Bellevue, WA

Expedition Pediatric Dentistry is a pediatric dentist in Bellevue, WA providing dental care for infants, children, and adolescents. We also accommodate special needs! If you’re local, book an appointment and we can figure out what’s causing your child’s bad breath, right from our office!

Happy trails!

Keep exploring