Reasons for Bad Breath in Toddlers

Reasons for Bad Breath in Toddlers
Reasons for Bad Breath in Toddlers (Image: Photo by Jenn_Jenn, Creative Commons Generic Attribution 2.5 License)

Toddlers can develop bad breath just as easily as adults. This isn't a widely known fact, however, so a sudden development of bad breath might cause alarm for some caregivers. Most cases of bad breath in toddlers are easy to cure. Once the cause of the bad breath is determined, proper action can be taken.

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Poor Dental Hygiene

This is the leading cause of bad breath in toddlers, as children can be very uncooperative when it comes to dental hygiene. Toddlers should have a stringent routine of brushing and flossing, just like adults. As soon as the first tooth appears, it should be cleaned at least twice a day to prevent odor-causing tartar and food buildup. Over time, poor dental hygiene can lead to even more serious health issues, such as cavities or dental abscess.

Mouth Breathing

Mouth breathing can cause bad breath, as it dries out the throat and allows bacteria to grow more rapidly. A toddler will sometimes breath through the mouth if the nose is congested due to a cold. However, mouth breathing can also be a symptom of a more serious issue, such as sleep apnea or enlarged adenoids.


Like mouth breathing, dehydration can cause a dry mouth and bacteria growth. If a toddler has bad breath and isn't wetting many diapers throughout the day, then dehydration could be the reason. It is important for a toddler's overall health to stay properly hydrated, so bad breath is one side effect of not consuming enough fluids.

Pacifier or Thumb Sucking

Many toddlers will suck on a pacifier or thumb for comfort. This common habit can actually lead to the development of bad breath. Both pacifiers and thumbs can be a breeding ground for bacteria if not properly cleaned. Pacifiers should always be sterilized before given to a toddler and hands should be washed a few times a day.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux, also known as heartburn, is a painful condition that isn't exclusive to adults. Acid reflux is the act of stomach acid traveling up the esophagus and it can sometimes be experienced by toddlers, as well as infants. This stomach acid can contain very foul-smelling bacteria, which sometimes leads to bad breath. If a toddler seems uncomfortable after eating and also suffers from bad breath, then acid reflux may be the culprit.

Foreign Object in Nose

Toddlers are constantly exploring their bodies and love putting foreign objects in their mouths or noses. It is possible for a foreign object to become lodged in the nose without anyone noticing. The child may not indicate there is a problem, but bad breath and even sinus infection can develop. If a toddler is suffering from bad breath and none of the common causes are present, then it might be prudent to take a close look up both nostrils.

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