Dr. Greene on the causes of bad breath…
Most kids would go out of their way to avoid eating garlic or onions, yet it is not unusual for a child to wake up with very smelly breath. Throughout the day, a child’s saliva, swished by the mouth muscles, washes away unwanted debris. As soon as a child falls asleep, saliva production plummets, and the muscles relax. The longer a child sleeps, the higher the bacterial count in the mouth rises, resulting in “morning breath.”
In children, smelly breath that persists throughout the day is most often the result of mouth-breathing, which dries out the mouth and allows the bacteria to grow. Children who consistently breathe through their mouths might have colds, sinus infections, allergies, or enlarged tonsils or adenoids blocking the nasal passages, so again, a visit to the pediatrician is in order. Thumbsucking or sucking on a blanket can also dry out the mouth.
To improve most cases of bad breath, the goal is to decrease mouth bacteria and increase saliva. The better your child’s toothbrushing technique, the smaller number of bacteria will be present. Make after-meal brushing a habit. Use a timer to help maintain brushing for at least two minutes. Be sure he or she brushes her tongue. You might also try a rotary electric toothbrush. I do not recommend mouthwashes or fluoride rinses in children, since kids tend to swallow them. Breath mints may mask the problem, but don’t get at the source. As your child gets older, sugarless sour candy or sugarless chewing gum can get the saliva flowing and get those mouth muscles moving.
If the mouth odor problem persists, she or he should see a physician. Bad breath in children that doesn’t respond to the above measures should be investigated.