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Experts Corner

Children's Health

Morning Breath 101
By Tara Kompare, Pharm.D.

I don’t know about you, but I always look forward to starting my mornings with snuggle sessions from my girls. Fresh from a good night's sleep, my two and five-year-old are usually eager to nestle into my arms and share lots of kisses. But what happens when those kisses aren’t as sweet as you hoped? What if your child’s breath knocks your socks off, in a bad kind of way?

Believe it or not, children can also suffer from halitosis, or bad breath. Some of the most popular causes include:

--Poor Dental Health: The tongue, teeth, and gums all need lots of TLC in order to prevent the build up of odor-producing bacteria. If our kids are not brushing and flossing properly, bad breath is sure to follow.

--Tonsil Crypts: Our tonsils often contain crypts—a fancy word for pits that can trap food particles causing odor. It is also important to note that mouth breathing, which is often caused by enlarged tonsils, can lead to halitosis as well.

--Foreign Bodies: Until this past Halloween, I was proud of the fact that my children had never stuffed anything up their nose. Well, my long record came to a screeching halt with a bag of mini M&M’s and a very daring two-year-old. If you aren’t fortunate enough to catch your kids in the act of shoving something into their nostrils, you may find out afterwards from the rotten smell. In order to tell if their nose is to blame, just take a whiff and look for any unusual nasal discharge.

--Postnasal Drip and Infection: Children with allergies and/or a sinus infection often develop postnasal drainage which collects in the back of the throat creating a breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria.

--Fungus: There are certain medications that can cause the development of an oral fungal infection called thrush. Inhaled steroids are one of the leading offenders but brushing and rinsing immediately after use can help minimize this unwanted side effect. Symptoms of thrush include bad breath and white spots on the tongue and cheeks.

Prevention and Treatment Tips:

--Treat any underlying medical conditions: If you suspect your child has allergies or an infection, it is important to bring your child to their doctor for further evaluation. With the proper diagnosis and medication, bad breath can be easily treated and eliminated.

--Encourage your children to brush and floss regularly: The dental products available today are amazing. I remember when I was a kid and dreamt about toothpaste that was flavored like bubble gum or watermelon and now that dream is a reality. If only I were a kid today . . .

--Check out your child’s throat: Ask your child to open up and say “Aahh” while you check out their tonsils for any trapped food particles and examine their tongue for any white spots.

--Watch them while they eat: If you have a toddler or preschooler at home, I am sure you know how quick and sneaky they can be. Try to not leave them alone in a room to eat since the odds are pretty high that they will experiment sticking things up and into anything with a hole in it.

We all know someone who has chronic bad breath and, most likely, you try to avoid getting too close to him or her. When it comes to our kids, however, we must always remain close so keeping their breath fresh and odor-free is a must!

P.S.S. (Parent Sanity Saver): To help ensure that your kids are brushing long enough, you may want to try using a “Twooth Timer.” This tooth-shaped two-minute timer can be found at and may help save you the cost of some unnecessary dental visits!

About the Author:
Tara Kompare, Pharm.D. is a doctor of pharmacy and mother of two amazing little girls. You can visit her website at She encourages reader feedback and questions.


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