Halitosis is the scientific name for a condition of bad breath. It may be conditional and temporary, going away once the trigger has been eliminated. Halitosis can also be chronic, meaning it does not simply go away with mints and mouthwash. While good brushing habits and oral care are important in addressing the issue, chronic halitosis will not likely be resolved until the true cause has been identified and treated with professional care.
Many people face halitosis at some point in their lives, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. However, for children and teenagers, halitosis can be especially embarrassing to talk about or call attention to, so it may go untreated for some time. If you notice your child has a particularly pungent malodor when speaking or relaxing, try to get them to open up about how long they have been dealing with the issue. If it has been longer than a day or two, it may be time to schedule an appointment with your dentist.
While the causes are often similar for both adults and children, there are some seen more frequently in each age group.
Periodontal disease, otherwise known as gum disease, can often be an underlying cause of bad breath. Someone suffering from the condition has a buildup of bacteria that eats away at the gum and even the bone underneath the teeth. When left untreated, the growth of bacteria triggers halitosis.
Dry mouth is another common cause, especially in older folks. Dry mouth itself can be the symptom of another condition or a side effect of medication. When saliva is not able to wash away food particles from the tongue and gums, the remaining bits can begin to smell and cause bad breath until they have been eliminated.
Lastly, tobacco use is a major cause of halitosis in adults, no matter how it is consumed. Not only does the smell of smoke or chewing tobacco linger and grow stale in a person's mouth, but the chemicals in the product can work their way into diseased pockets in the gums.
In general, poor overall oral care is the most common cause of halitosis in children. Kids that have braces or wear retainers may have an increased risk for halitosis, especially if they do not clean them thoroughly each day. Any food scraps that get trapped in a bracket or sit overnight in the retainer will break down and begin to release an odor.
Many kids gravitate towards sugary drinks and foods when they are still learning how to care for themselves and their teeth. They often find it tedious to spend time brushing, flossing, and rinsing, so it may be necessary to emphasize the importance of oral hygiene to your kids.
Lastly, respiratory infections can be a common cause of halitosis in both children and adults, as they often make it hard to breathe out of your nose, forcing you to sleep with your mouth open. Mouth breathing can lead to dry mouth, which in turn can lead to halitosis.
The first plan of action for any dental issue is to start with good oral hygiene. Brushing your teeth twice a day, once after waking and once before bed, should be the foundation of the routine. Flossing frequently and adding a fluoride mouth rinse will also help to prevent cavities and halitosis. For many children who are not in the habit of brushing their teeth regularly, this simple switch can be enough to clear them of their bad breath. Being vigilant in cleaning retainers or braces is another element of healthy oral care. If there is a more complex problem at play, you may need to expand the treatment plan. Infections and other medical conditions should be diagnosed and treated by a doctor.
If you have tried solutions but the halitosis still remains, the best course of action is to take your child to see a dentist to get bad breath out of their life. Contact us at Pediatric Dental Group in Lihue and Honolulu, Hawaii at (808) 245-2131 and (808) 593-8828, respectively, to schedule an appointment.