Daily Health Tips: Why Does My 3-Year Old Son Have Bad Breath?


Q: Good morning, Doctor. My baby is 3 years old and his mouth smells even though he brushes twice a day. Please help!

A: Bad breath at any age is traumatic but in a young child, it often leaves the parents wondering what they are doing wrong 😀

Improper brushing of teeth is always an issue. People argue that they brush their teeth and their children’s teeth properly, but this may not be completely true. Do you brush your teeth for at least 2 minutes, paying attention to every section? Do you brush your tongue? Do you floss? Remember that food particles between teeth can interact with bacteria that live normally in the mouth and lead to stinking mouths…same for food debris at the gum line and tonsils. And then, when a baby has a congested nose and breaths with his/her mouth, the dry conditions enable the bacteria to thrive.

Tonsilitis, finger sucking by babies, tooth cavities and buildup of tartar on teeth can all cause bad breath.
What can you do as a parent? Get involved. Help your baby with brushing the teeth to teach him the right technique. (When you say, he brushes twice a day, I hope this doesn’t mean he’s doing it without supervision?) Brushing times can become fun bonding times for mummy and her son or for daddy and son. Sing nice fun songs and brush your own teeth at the same time too 😀

Remember that oral care (care of the mouth) should start even before the first tooth erupts. Regularly wipe your baby’s mouth and gum with a wet flannel and as soon as the first tooth/teeth erupt, start brushing. Use tooth paste that does not contain fluoride until your baby can spit. What tooth paste does not contain fluoride? Ask at your regular supermarket or simply pick up the packs of the different tooth pastes and look for one that does not contain fluoride  Use a tiny amount of paste at this initial time (about the size of a grain of rice), then graduate to a pea sized amount and tooth paste that contains fluoride, when the child can spit out.

Remember the rule of twos: Take your baby to see the dentist twice a year, help him and teach him to brush his teeth at least twice a day (three if you can manage it, after every meal) and be sure to ensure that he spends at least 2 minutes brushing his teeth. A simple way of doing this is mentally dividing the mouth/teeth into four quadrants/sections. Then spend at least 30 seconds on each side, making sure you brush every surface of the teeth.

Then be sure not to forget the tongue. Pay attention to every side and use a soft bristled brush to do a good job. There are tongue scrapers which can be purchased alone or tooth brushes which come with bristles at the back for brushing the tongue.

Stay off alcoholic mouth washes for your baby as the alcohol just worsens the dryness in the mouth, And remember that mouth washes are just temporary fixes. They only mask the bad breath and not treat it.
Encourage your baby to drink water regularly, especially if they have dry mouths and they’ve got to scrub their hands regularly too, if they suck their fingers/thumb.

These should be sufficient to stop the bad breath. If they don’t however, please see your doctor to rule out other causes of bad breath which cavities in the teeth etc

Good night, y’all 😀

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