THE BLOG
09/15/2011 05:54 pm ET Updated Nov 15, 2011

Children and Bad Breath

Bad breath is often something that adults are aware of, but did you know that children can have halitosis, too? For you parents out there, here are some articles that go into more detail about kids and bad breath.

One article discusses Lewis First, a pediatrician at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen, and his list of a few childhood causes of bad breath. Dr. First shared this with NBC 5 News. The most common cause of halitosis in children is simple plaque buildup. It's almost impossible to ensure that children are brushing, flossing and rinsing thoroughly and twice daily. Missed brushings leave the mouth primed for bacteria in the mouth to multiply, thus causing oral odor. Another is the fact that many children put foreign objects in their mouths -- it's a way for them to learn. Blankets, hair, toys and pacifiers add more bacteria-rich cultures that will grow on the surface of the tongue. Whether it's due to a stuffy nose or to the fact that the baby just has a habit of breathing with the mouth open, breathing through the mouth can dry out saliva. Without this oxygen-rich liquid, anaerobic bacteria can breed quickly, causing bad breath. The National Institutes of Health have released news that the University of Nove de Julho in Brazil is currently conducting a clinical trial to determine the connection between childhood bad breath and mouth-breathing. A study in the journal Pediatric Dentistry determined that parents can't always smell halitosis on their child's breath. The best course of action is to use specialty breath fresheners and try to monitor the daily regime of proper oral care twice a day.

When is the best time to take your child to the dentist? According to one article, it's winter. This is a time when the child has gotten used to his or her school routine. Many parents agree, according to a survey done by a dental care advocacy group, Oral Health America. Their survey showed that 63 percent of parents feel that taking their children to the dentist close to the beginning of the academic school year is either extremely or very important. This is a way to get kids ready to go back to school with a clean bill of dental health, thus avoiding problems such as cavities, bad breath and gum disease. Eighty-nine percent of parents surveyed also believe that regular trips to the dentist are vital to their children's overall good health. The survey conducted by Oral Health America was done as part of the group's Fall for Smiles campaign. It is a campaign that hopes to connect communities to resources that can help them improve overall oral health.

According to one article, a parenting advice column in the Queensland Courier Mail suggests monitoring your child's (or children's) oral health habits and being on the lookout for halitosis-causing illnesses. For older people, dry mouth is fairly common and often leads to bad breath, as stated by the Mayo Clinic. As we get older, our production of saliva decreases. However, when bad breath is found in children, the cause is often as simple as not having proper oral care habits -- brushing properly. Anyone who has ever tried can attest to the fact (as the Queensland Courier Mail mentions) that getting a child to thoroughly brush his or her teeth (or at all) can be quite challenging. It may be a challenge for kids to brush their teeth because their nimbleness is still developing. As busy as parents are with life in general, often parents assume that their kids are brushing their teeth when they aren't. The news source suggests making a brushing schedule for both parent and child where it's a group activity done twice daily. Brushing your teeth together could be fun, and the parent can not only check on their little one's method and brushing technique but also serve as an example. If your child is practicing good oral hygiene and still has foul breath, it could be illness or a rich, fatty diet with a lot of savory food. Regardless of the cause of bad breath, encouraging, monitoring and teaching children how to form good oral care habits can be vital for their dental health for the rest of their lives.

Now that we've discussed when and how to get your kids to brush, it's important to also address what types of oral care products they are using daily. Some oral care products (especially children's) such as mouthwash, toothpaste and gum often contain dyes to give them an attractive and bright appearance. There's nothing wrong with a product wanted to be appealing to eye, right? Well, there might be. According to one article, the HealthDay News reports that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will gather a panel of health care experts to discuss whether or not these dyes are linked to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Almost 10 percent of U.S. children from age 4 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. according to the Centers to Disease Control and Prevention -- that's roughly 5.4 million youngsters in America alone. The link to ADHD and food dyes has yet to be confirmed, but many health experts already suspect a connection. David Schaub, a psychiatric researcher, professor at Columbia University and FDA panel member, told HealthDay News that this pending meeting is "a big step forward" in discussing this issue. While the jury is still out, it's probably best to stay clear of oral care products that contain dyes to avoid the potential risk of excess dye absorption.

Life can get hectic, and oral care might be something that we all take for granted. It's important to remember to check in with your children to ensure that they are brushing properly and that their oral health is in good shape. Bad breath can be very embarrassing, and kids can be harsh, so save yourself some dental costs and help keep your kid's breath healthy.