You’ve tried SUGAR-FREE mints, SUGAR-FREE gum and mouthwash but nothing works. Bad breath is affecting your child and nothing seems to work that lasts! What really causes bad breath and how can you get rid of it?
Is it Temporary or Is it Going to Hang Around For Good?
Temporary bad breath can occur after eating certain foods, such as onions and cabbage, which contain high levels of sulfur compounds. When these foods are digested, the sulfur compounds are absorbed by the bloodstream, carried to the lungs and released in the form of bad breath when you exhale or speak. Changing your diet to avoid foods like these can help prevent this type of bad breath. Although, I don’t know too many young children who like onions and cabbage! So maybe it is something else causing your child’s bad breath.
Chronic halitosis, or long-term bad breath, is caused by something different– bacteria! Bacteria flourish on the tongue, especially towards the back third. These bacteria break down the leftover food in the mouth, resulting in substances called volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). These VSCs are the most common cause of bad breath. To treat this kind of bad breath, the solution is to reduce the amount of bacteria in the mouth.
So, how do you reduce the bacteria causing the bad breath for your child?
Option #1, use an alcohol-free mouthwash that contains “chlorine dioxide” if your child can rinse and spit well. The mouthwash serves two purposes. The first is to keep the mouth wet since the bacteria responsible for bad breath thrive when the mouth is dry. The second purpose is that the chlorine dioxide in the mouthwash attacks the VSCs at the molecular level to treat bad breath at the source instead of just covering up the smell.
Option #2, maintain good oral hygiene. What that means is regular flossing (daily) and brushing of the teeth and tongue (at least twice per day for two minutes). The tongue is a hotbed of bacterial growth, harboring millions of organisms in a bunch of tiny nooks and crannies. The most efficient way of cleaning the tongue is with a tongue scraper, a special tool made of plastic or metal that is scraped along the surface to remove the film of bacteria. The scraper should be placed as far back on the tongue as you can to remove the most bacteria as possible. If your child doesn’t tolerate you using a tongue scraper very well, at least be sure to brush their tongue well with the toothbrush.
To summarize, here is how to help your child not to have bad breath:
• Drink plenty of water. A moist mouth is inhospitable to the bacteria responsible for bad breath. Water also dilutes the concentration of VSCs, making them weaker and less pungent.
• Brush and floss regularly (parents do this until age 8). Brush and floss as soon as possible after meals to minimize the amount of bacteria in the mouth. Buy a tongue scraper (about $3) to reduce the amount of bacteria even more.
• Treat any existing oral diseases. See the pediatric dentist regularly, especially if you suspect that your child has any type of oral disease, gum problems or infection.
• Eat crunchy fruits and vegetables. Chewing apples, celery and cucumber helps keep the mouth naturally clean by removing food particles and plaque while eating. They also increase saliva flow to keep your mouth moist.
• Chew sugarless gum (for children 6 and older). Chewing gum will help keep the mouth moist and increase saliva flow. Because the bacteria in the mouth easily break down most sugars into VSCs, choose sugarless gum and say no to mints that contain sugar.
• Eat yogurt. Some research shows that eating one serving of yogurt daily can reduce the amount of odor-causing particles, including bacteria, in the mouth.
• Get your vitamins. Vitamin D creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria. Enjoy plenty of vitamin D-fortified foods (such as milk and other dairy products). Vitamin C (found in berries melons and citrus fruit) also makes the mouth inhospitable to bacteria, but can also help prevent two other causes of bad breath—gum disease and gingivitis.
• Check your medicine cabinet. Bad breath is often a side effect of both prescription and over-the-counter medications. Have your child take them as directed, and unless otherwise instructed, have your child drink plenty of water along with the medication.
If you have done all of the above tips for better breath, and it is still not helping, then it could possibly be due to other causes such as: candidiasis (thrush or fungal overgrowth) and dry mouth (xerostomia). Postnasal drip, sinus infections and gastrointestinal diseases can also cause bad breath. If your child’s bad breath cannot be treated with proper oral hygiene and the above mentioned tips, visit your health care provider to find out if there could be an underlying health condition.