Bad Breath in Babies: What You Need to Know

Baby Bad Breath Causes of Baby Bad Breath Treatment for Baby Bad Breath When to Take Your Child to the Pediatrician

Although rare, baby bad breath does occur in both infants and toddlers. Usually harmless, the foul odor can be treated and avoided. However, it is important to identify the cause of your child’s bad breath to ensure it’s not a symptom of a more serious health condition.

Causes of Baby Bad Breath

When bacteria festers in the mouth it can lead to bad breath, in babies and adults. Common causes of baby bad breath include:

  • Sugar: If sugar is not brushed or wiped off your baby’s teeth and gums, it becomes food for bacteria. As the bacteria eats away at the leftover sugars, it produces gases which result in bad breath.
  • Dry Mouth: If your baby has an allergy or cold, he or she may be breathing through their mouth rather than their nose. This reduces the moisture contents and bacteria-rinsing saliva. As oral tissues become dry, bad breath germs accumulate and create a less than pleasant odor.
  • Milk: If your child consumes too much milk, they may regurgitate it back up into their throats, resulting in baby bad breath.
  • Toys: Most babies and toddlers explore the world through their mouth. If toys are not cleaned after your child has put them in their mouth, the bacteria are then transferred back into their mouths when they play with the toy again.
  • Pacifiers and Teethers: Babies suck and chew on their pacifiers and teethers, leaving behind saliva and bacteria. These items then form a foul smell if not cleaned properly and can lead to the bacteria being transferred back into your baby’s mouth when they use that particular item again.
  • Tooth Decay: If proper oral care is not practiced your child may develop decay. As the tooth rots away, it expunges bad breath.
  • Infection: Certain types of infections, including gum disease or sinus infections, can lead to baby and toddler bad breath. Sinus infections particularly lead to bad breath because the fluid collects in the nasal passages and makes its way down to the back of the throat and tongue.
  • Foreign Objects: If a foreign object, such as a bead, gets stuck in your child’s nasal passage, then they may have to breathe through their mouths, resulting in bad breath. Additionally, food particles can also get stuck and rot in the nasal passage, contributing to the foul odor.
  • Gastro-esophageal Reflux: An acidic smell is produced when stomach acids regurgitate, or come back up, into the throat.

Treatment for Baby Bad Breath

In most cases, baby and toddler bad breath can be quickly nipped in the bud. A few easy steps to take include:

  1. Washing your baby’s hands, toys, and pacifiers frequently
  2. Feeding them a diet low in starch and sugar
  3. Gently wiping or brushing your baby’s teeth and gums with a soft-bristled toothbrush, especially after feeding and before bedtime
  4. Visiting the dentist or dental hygienist as soon as their first tooth appears

When to Take Your Child to the Pediatrician

If you suspect your baby’s bad breath may be caused by tooth decay or an infection, visit their healthcare provider or dental professional right away.


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