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Bad Breath (Halitosis)

What is bad breath?

The complaint of bad breath is unusual in children and the cause should be uncovered and dealt with directly. When your child's breath has an unpleasant odor it could be caused by food, dental problems, or by another underlying problem. The problem may be recent or a long-standing one.

What causes bad breath?

Many things can cause bad breath. Some causes include:

  • poor saliva flow at night (bad breath in the morning is normal)
  • eating pungent foods, such as onions or garlic
  • poor brushing and dental care
  • sucking on a thumb or other object
  • occasionally, a symptom of a disease, tooth decay, or sinus infection.

How can I take care of my child?

  • More frequent toothbrushing improves most cases of mild bad breath. Also brush the surface of the tongue. If your child has a cavity, make a dentist appointment. Mouthwashes and chewable breath fresheners are heavily promoted in our society but provide temporary improvement at best.
  • If your child sucks his thumb, a blanket, or other object, the bad breath will go away when this habit is given up. If your child is over age 4 years, ask your child's health care provider about some ways to discourage this habit before the permanent teeth come in.

When should I call my child's health care provider?

Call during office hours if your child continues to have bad breath and you cannot find the cause.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-10-05
Last reviewed: 2006-03-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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