Why Would a Toddler Have Bad Breath?

Medically Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on April 12, 2023
4 min read

When you start to notice your toddler’s bad breath, they may need your help. Teaching your toddler good brushing habits and oral hygiene early can prevent bad breath. There are more reasons than just lack of brushing that cause bad breath in toddlers. You’ll want to know what’s causing their bad breath so you can treat the root issue. 

Poor oral hygiene.Bad breath is also known as halitosis. This is a common condition for toddlers. There can be numerous causes for your toddler’s unpleasant breath. First, look at their brushing habits. Not brushing your toddler’s teeth twice per day and not taking care of their gums could cause bad breath. Plaque buildup can cause the odor, too. 

Diet. Certain foods can cause bad breath. Onion and garlic are classic examples. Sugary foods and drinks are also to blame. These foods damage teeth due to their acidity. When teeth start to decay from sugar and acidity, your toddler can develop bad breath. 

Xerostomia. Dry mouth, xerostomia, can make your toddlers' breath smell bad. When there’s no saliva to wash away the bacteria in their mouths, halitosis sets in. Dry mouth can happen if your toddler breathes through their mouth. 

Other underlying ear, nose, and throat conditions can affect your toddler's breath. Sinus infections, tonsillitis, and some seasonal allergies can cause bad breath. If you’re concerned about your toddler’s bad breath you should consult your child’s doctor or dentist. 

Good oral hygiene habits start when your baby is first born. You can start by getting them used to the feeling of rubbing on their gums. This could be with a washcloth or a gum brush. You’ll rub their gums to keep them clean. When they start to teethe, you should continue this. Good brushing habits form early. 

When your toddler’s teeth start to come in, you can introduce an infant toothbrush. You can also start using a small amount of toothpaste. Check with your doctor to know when fluoride is safe to use. As soon as your toddler’s teeth start touching, you can begin to floss

Your toddler may be at the point where they fight getting their teeth brushed. Though this can be a challenging period, maintaining good habits will be best for your toddler’s oral hygiene. 

Your toddler might struggle, but here are some tips to help them want to brush their teeth

  • Let your toddler brush their teeth. You can brush their teeth first, then let them practice. This will let them feel more in control and not forced. 
  • Play music. Turn on a song that lasts two minutes. This will help them understand how long two minutes is. You can pick a song they love or that’s related to brushing teeth. 
  • Let them brush their dolls’ or stuffed animals’ teeth without toothpaste. This is another way they can practice brushing. By including toys, you’ll make the routine fun. 
  • Let your toddler pick out their toothbrush. You can give them toddler-safe options, and they can choose. This will let them feel in control of brushing their teeth. 

The key to good oral hygiene in toddlers is consistency and routine. Keeping your toddler on a schedule and making it fun will be better for both of you. If your toddler is still fighting you, you might need to see their doctor for more tips. 

Typically, good oral hygiene and plenty of water will treat your toddler’s bad breath. However, in some instances, you may need to seek medical care. 

Extreme morning breath. It’s common for people to have bad breath when they wake up. But, if your toddler has overpowering bad breath in the morning that won’t go away, they might need help. This could be a sign that your toddler has halitosis that requires medical treatment.

Tooth decay. Untreated cavities can lead to tooth decay. Tooth decay can cause many problems, but bad breath is a noticeable one. Decaying teeth can harbor bacteria, which can cause smelly breath. Your toddler should see a dentist immediately to fill or pull the tooth in question. 

Ears, throat, and nose. When bacteria build up in your toddler’s mouth, the only sign may be their bad breath. Sinus infections, enlarged tonsils, and acid reflux can also cause bad breath. If your toddler’s breath doesn’t improve with brushing or other treatments, they may have an underlying condition that needs to be treated by a medical professional.