Breath Mints May Mask The Problem

Our 3 year old daughter’s breath is often bad. What odours should we look for, are there any that individuals should watch out for,
Nicholas Godfrey — Oakville, Ontario

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

Most kids would walk out their way to avoid eating garlic or even onions, yet it is not unusual to get a child to wake up with really bad breath. Throughout the day, a child’s saliva, swished by the mouth muscle tissue, washes away unwanted debris. As soon as a child falls asleep, drool production plummets, and bad muscle tissue relax. The longer a child sleeps, the higher the bacterial count in the particular mouth rises, resulting in “morning breath.”

In children, smelly breath that continues throughout the day is most often the result of mouth-breathing, which dries out the mouth area and allows the bacteria to develop. Children who consistently breathe via their mouths might have colds, nose infections, allergies, or enlarged tonsils or adenoids blocking the nose passages, so a visit to the doctor is in order. Thumbsucking or stroking on a blanket can also dry out the particular mouth. Tonsillar stones, collections associated with food and bacteria that get trapped in the crevices of the tonsils, may also cause bad breath.

To improve most all cases of bad breath, the goal would be to decrease mouth bacteria and increase saliva. The better your daughter’s toothbrushing technique, the smaller number of bacteria will be present. Make after-meal brushing a habit. Use a timer to help her brush for at the very least two minutes. Be sure she brushes her tongue. You may also try a rotary electric toothbrush. I actually do not recommend mouthwashes or fluoride rinses in young children, since they often swallow them. Breath mints might mask the problem, but don’t reach the source. As your daughter ages, sugarless sour candy or sugarless chewing gum can get the saliva moving and get those mouth muscles shifting.

If the problem persists, she ought to see her doctor. Bad breathing in children that doesn’t react to the above measures should be investigated. Here is a list of some very uncommon, yet telltale, odors (mostly from Mace, Goodman, Centerwall, et al: The child with an unusual odor. Clinical Pediatrics 15: 57-62, 1976). Take a whiff:

– Acetone — diabetes or acetone, alcohol, phenol, or salicylate ingestion
– Ammonia – some types of urinary : tract infections, or kidney failing
– Asparagus – eating asparagus (very unusual in children; > ))
– Bitter almonds — cyanide poisoning
– Cat’s pee – odor of cats symptoms (beta-methyl-crotonyl-CoA-carboxylase deficiency)
– Celery — Oasthouse urine disease
– Dead fish – stale fish symptoms (trimethylamine oxidase deficiency)
– Fresh-baked bread – typhoid fever
— Foul – tonsillitis, sinusitis, gingivitis, tonsill stones, lung abscess, or even dental cavities (some of these are in fact quite common)
– Garlic — arsenic, phosphorus, organic phosphate insecticides, or thallium poisoning
— Horse-like (also described as mouse-like or even musty) – phenylketonuria
– Rancid butter – odor of rancid butter syndrome (hypermethionemia and hypertyrosinemia)
– Raw liver – liver organ failure
– Sweaty socks — odor of sweaty feet symptoms (Isovalryl CoA dehydrogenase deficiency)
— Sweaty socks – odor associated with sweaty feet syndrome II (Green acyldehydrogenase deficiency)
– Violets — turpentine poisoning

Three-year-olds often things items in their noses, and then ignore them. When my son Kevin was three, he put 5 peas up his nose just before anyone found out! Watch for the mixture of smelly breath and a smelly, yellow-colored nasal discharge � especially from nostril. You and I might not consider stuffing peas up our noses, but three-year-olds think outside the box!

Photo credit: Dhammika Heenpella

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a training physician, author, national and worldwide TEDx speaker, and global wellness advocate. He is a graduate associated with Princeton University and University associated with California San Francisco.

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