Morning dragon mouth is normal for kids, but persistent bad breath can be a sign of a serious dental issue, or another illness.
If you notice persistent bad breath (formally described as chronic halitosis) in your kids, the first question is whether they’ve brushed, flossed and rinsed recently. If they haven’t, it may be time for a good old fashioned dragging them by the ear to the bathroom to brush their teeth. Older kids age 6 and up can also use antiseptic mouthwash, after brushing, to kill mouth bacteria.
Bacteria are always the primary source of bad breath. While it is common to think of bacteria accumulating on the teeth and around the gums, they could also be making a home on the tongue. Parents usually try to solve this by brushing their kids’ tongues. This is generally not the recommendation as you will just push the bacteria deeper in, and some of the bacteria moves into the toothbrush and get back in the mouth later. The best practice is to use a tongue scraper which is commonly found in the dental aisle at your local store.
The recommended technique involves gently but firmly scraping your child’s tongue in an outward direction, starting as far back (near the throat) as comfortable. Scrape a few times in the morning after brushing, rinsing the scraper under hot water between each scrape.
If bacteria aren’t on the tongue, it could be in the throat. Bacteria can collect in the soft tissue in the deep reaches of children’s throats. When your child goes to school and encounters germs or may be dealing with allergies, the immune system activates and this can result in excess mucus in the oropharyngeal areas. The mucus also drains down the throat, which can foster bad breath.
To find the cause of bad breath (other than the need for better dental hygiene and a nice dental cleaning), your pediatric dentist would do a physical exam of your child’s mouth and ask questions, including whether your child breathes through the mouth when asleep, while watching tv or reading, and if they have trouble chewing with their mouths closed. These are all common presentations of airway issues that over-emphasize mouth breathing which is associated with halitosis.
Dry mouth–because of breathing through the mouth or salivary gland problems– also exacerbate to bad breath. Aside from sinus problems mentioned above, systemic illnesses like diabetes, liver or kidney disease, acid-reflux, lung disease are also associated with the sign of bad breath.
Figuring out the exact cause of bad breath isn’t always as simple as we would like. We recommend a good brushing and regular dental cleanings with our pediatric dentist. Watch for breathing signs or mucus issues that may prompt a consult with an ear, nose, and throat doctor. And, of course, you can always bring up this issue at your next visit in our office. We would be glad to help you solve this problem!
If you have any questions regarding bad breath, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
About Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan, the offices of Drs. Delaney, Plunkett, Ralstrom, Makowski, Thanasas, Ker, and Associates
Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan have specialized in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics since 1968. Our family-friendly and newly renovated office gives patients and families a more comfortable and consistent experience with dentistry from the very beginning. Our pediatric dentists treat children from newborn to 18 years of age while our orthodontists provide care for both children and adults and are proud to be Premier Providers of Invisalign and Invisalign Teen services. The ability to treat all patients with compassion and individuality, including those that may have special needs reaches beyond our facility, which has treatment rooms available for children who require additional privacy and customized care options. We pioneered valued hospital affiliations to allow dental services to be performed at DMC Children’s Hospital and St. John Macomb Hospital, when appropriate or necessary, and our specialists are also proud to be on staff at Henry Ford and Beaumont hospitals.