Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 12:24 pm

Having a bad breath can make kids feel very self-conscious when they interact with friends and even family. Here’s what could be causing it and how you can help.  

Kids aren’t always as attentive to oral hygiene as adults. They won’t think twice about not brushing their teeth before going to bed unless you make them do it.

So, when your child has a bad breath, your first impulse is often to tell them to go and brush their teeth- but often the bad smell remains after brushing.

What could be causing it? A rotten tooth somewhere maybe? Maybe he didn’t brush long enough?

We asked dentist Dr Meenakshi Iyer from Wiggly Teeth Dentistry what can cause bad breath and what you can do to fix it.

Dr Meenakshi says bad breath can be caused by a variety of reasons including poor oral/dental hygiene, diet, a dry mouth, ear, nose and throat problems and even some chronic diseases.

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Make sure your child’s bad breath isn’t food related. Onion and garlic are two of the most common culprits. Get your child to rinse their mouth with water or even brush their teeth after eating these foods.

Poor oral/dental hygiene

If you can’t get behind the reason for your child’s smelly breath, a dentist will need to evaluate your child to make sure his gum and teeth are healthy. Apart from brushing a child must also floss if their teeth are spaced tight together and clean their tongue.

Xerostomia (dry mouth)

Having a dry mouth can also cause bad breath. “This is caused by a variety of reasons including chronic diseases, mouth breathing and medications,” says Dr Meenakshi.

Ear, nose and throat

If the problem is not in your child’s mouth, then an ENT (ear nose and throat specialist) needs to evaluate his tonsils and adenoids. “If they are constantly inflamed and irritated it can also cause bad breath. Post-nasal drips are also responsible for bad breath,” says Dr Meenakshi.


Some issues like reflux and some chronic diseases can also cause bad breath. Dr Meenakshi says if all other causes have been addressed you should make an appointment with your child’s paediatrician to get to the root of the problem.

Tips to deal with bad breath:

  • If your child is still very young, help him brush his teeth or supervise while he is doing it and make sure that he cleans his tongue as well.
  • Give your child a piece of sugar-free gum to chew after meals that had onion or garlic in.
  • You can try mouth wash as well, but this might not always fix the issue says Dr Meenakshi.
  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of water and stays hydrated.

More about the expert:

Dr Meenakshi Iyer is a dentist and owner of Wiggly Teeth Dentistry in Erasmuskloof, one of the first Only Paediatric Dental Practice in South Africa. Working with special needs kids is very close to her heart.

Follow Wiggly Teeth Dentistry on Facebook or visit their website here.