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Dr. Harold Katz

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How to Explain Bad Breath to Your Kids

Posted: 10/28/11 03:27 PM ET

Halitosis doesn't have an age requirement. As we've discussed previously, childhood bad breath can be a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Here are some articles that not only discuss kids and bad breath, but breakdown the science behind it.

One article discusses exactly this point. Children can suffer from halitosis just as much as pets and adults. Children need help in taking care of their breath and oral health as they aren't quite able to understand the importance, not to mention they actually have difficulty brushing at a really young age. What causes bad breath in kids? Many of the same things are prevalent in adults. The first and perhaps most important reason is that the child is due for a visit to the dentist. As most parents know, it's difficult to manage a child's day to day oral health regimen with the many other activities, chores and tasks that come with parenting. If you notice that your child has sour smelling breath around bedtime, it might be time to make a dentist appointment. The dentist will be able to tell you if it's just time for a regular checkup or if it's something more serious. On rare occasions, bad breath can be a sign of another medical condition such as diabetes or a side effect from prescription drugs such as Adderall or Ritalin. Children naturally produce more saliva than older adults, however, bad breath could still be a sign of dehydration.

Dry mouth is a result of dehydration and lead to halitosis as the bacteria that cause unpleasant odors thrive in a dry environment. If your child plays a lot outside or participates in sports, be sure to him or her hydrated with plenty of water. A large sugar intake can also cause foul-smelling breath, cavities and gum disease too. As we all know, kids are unlikely to brush and floss after lunch and any sugary snack from school will sit between teeth and on their tongues which might cause unwanted bad breath. The best thing to do is make time to brush, floss and rinse with your kids in the morning and night to make sure they are properly caring for their teeth and their breath.

Touching more on the subject of dry mouth, we can't stress how important a hydrate mouth is. Saliva has a number of important jobs and one of them is to keep our breath fresh. According to one article, the book "Why Do I Burp?: Diet and Digestion" by Isabel Thomas explains to kids how saliva helps break down the food we eat. Thomas talks about moisture made by our salivary glands and how it is full of enzymes which are proteins that can increase the rate of certain chemical reactions. Different enzymes break down different types of food. These are definitely powerful enzymes, but nothing compared to tarantulas whose enzymes can actually liquefy the inside of their prey. Our mouths naturally contain hundreds of different types of microbes. Some of these microbes thrive in an anaerobic environment (meaning dry and without oxygen) including the volatile sulfur compounds that create bad breath. The enzymes from saliva help keep oral bacteria in check. What do this book, myself and the American Dental Association suggest to help this powerful saliva? Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water each day.

The kid's program "Beakman's World" also thought bad breath was worth explaining to kids, according to an article the TV show aired on CBS's during Saturday morning cartoons from 1992 -1998, which explains why it might not ring a bell. The show starred host Paul Zaloom and used puppets, animation and live actors to explain quite a number of scientific ideas to children. One specific episode call "The Mouth, Beakmania and Scale" featured Zaloom explaining bad breath by first stating that huge amounts of bacteria live in the human mouth -- more than the entire population of the earth! In order to show how these microbes lead to bad breath, Zaloom explained that just like any other living creature, these bacteria eat and produce waste. His assistant then says "You mean they're using my mouth as a... ?" and the sound of a toilet flushing is heard. While this isn't exactly a pleasant thought, it does get the point across of how important it is to rinse, floss and brush regularly. Want to check out this video? According to our searches, you might be able to rent it on Netflix.

While we're on the subject of children's TV, do your little ones watch "Spongebob Squarepants"? Well, according to one article, even this crazy sea critter talks about bad breath. One episode that first aired in 2000 on Nickelodeon discusses how one can get bad breath and the side effects from eating pungent foods. In this episode titled "Something Smells," Spongebob is craving an ice cream sundae. However, he doesn't have any of the ingredients for a traditional sundae. This doesn't faze the chipper sea sponge at all! He constructs his sundae out of onions, ketchup and peanuts -- definitely not your typical sundae. His breath is so bad from the snack that is actually creates a visible cloud of green funk around him. As Spongebob walks around Bikini Bottom, people are disgusted and run away from his bad breath -- but as if often the case in real life, no one has the nerve to tell him he has halitosis. He decides instead that he must be ugly. While it's not likely that someone would actually be able to eat this snack in real life, certain pungent foods such as onions and peanuts can cause bad breath even after the meal has been digested -- this is due to remnants of food particles still in the mouth, which bad breath bacteria love to eat. What can our children learn from this episode? Aside from tons of laughs, it is important to be conscious of one's breath and to rinse, floss and brush after an especially strong-flavored meal.

What do all of these articles have in common? While bad breath can be entertaining and comical, it is also important to discuss bad breath with your kids as well as teach them to be conscious of it. Drinking water and doing the daily routine of brushing, flossing and rinsing should help keep most children's breath fresh. Hopefully these articles have given you enough information so you can more easily explain bad breath and oral care to your children.

 

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