Bad Breath (Halitosis) in Children: Care Instructions

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Everybody has bad breath from time to time, especially first thing in the morning.

Many things can cause bad breath, such as missing meals, being dehydrated, or eating foods with a strong odor, such as garlic. Bacteria and plaque buildup in the mouth from food caught between teeth or in dental appliances also may be a cause.

Other causes include throat or mouth infections (such as strep throat), dental problems (such as cavities), or gum disease.

Saliva has a cleaning action that helps reduce or get rid of bad breath. When saliva decreases, bacteria can grow, causing bad breath. This may be especially noticeable in the morning. The flow of saliva almost stops during sleep.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

To help improve your child's breath:

  • Teach your child to gargle with water when your child is old enough. This is usually around 8 years of age.
  • Teach your child to brush their teeth, tongue, roof of the mouth, and gums at least twice a day. Ask your doctor or dentist if your child is ready for fluoride toothpaste.
  • Have your child floss their teeth once each day when your child is old enough.
  • Help your child avoid foods that cause bad breath, such as garlic, onion, or pastrami.
  • Have your child drink water, especially if their mouth is dry.
  • Have your child remove orthodontic appliances and clean them once each day or as directed by your dentist. Pieces of food and germs can collect on these appliances and cause bad breath.
  • If your child age 6 or older has cavities, ask the dentist if your child should try mouthwash.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if your child has any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.