There’s something magical about the newness of life and sweet smell of a baby’s soft skin, and many parents fall in love with the scent of their new baby. So it can be unsettling when you bend down for a kiss and are hit in the face with a foul stench coming from your baby’s mouth.
While every parent expects to hold their nose near a dirty diaper, most don’t expect their baby to have bad breath.
And you can’t exactly give them a tic-tac.
Most people relate bad breath to bad oral hygiene practices in adults, but bad baby breath is more common than most parents think.
Luckily, most cases have easy remedies and that will allow you to cuddle with your baby free of stinky kisses.
Bad Breath Causes
Bad breath is caused by increased bacterial growth between your teeth, around your gums, and on your tongue. While some smelly mouths are caused by underlying medical issues, the majority of cases of bad breath in babies can be prevented or treated easily by observing your baby and rethinking your hygiene habits.
- Dry Mouth: Some babies sleep with their mouths open naturally or because of a stuffy nose. This allows more bacteria to grow causing the smell.
- Foreign Object: Babies are known for mishandling small objects. If they lodge something foreign in their nose (a pea, piece of toy, etc.) and you don’t know about it, it can cause poor breathing and bad breath.
- Poor Hygiene: Cavities and tartar buildup can affect children at any age and cause bad breath. You should follow the recommendations for oral hygiene depending on your child’s age. Even when they’re infants without teeth you can massage their gums and clean their tongue.
- Smelly Foods: Just like adults, if your child eats foods like garlic and onions their breath may smell temporarily afterward.
- Illness: Conditions like tonsillitis, sinus infections, or even seasonal allergies can cause bad breath and require outside medical attention. Consult your pediatrician if the problem persists after a change in routine.
- Reflux: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (regurgitation of their food) causes bad breath. All babies spit up (reflux), but as long as your baby is healthy and growing there is no cause for concern. When the severity and frequency of spitting up changes, or your baby has difficulty feeding, it may be caused by GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
The Mayo Clinic recommends seeing your doctor if your baby:
- Spits up colored fluid (green, yellow, blood)
- Isn’t gaining weight
- Projectile vomits consistently
- Refuses to eat
- Is normally fussy after a feeding
Your baby’s bad breath could be from one source or a combination of the above. Take the time to observe your baby and discover the underlying cause so you can begin treating it.
Remedies and prevention.
Experts agree that the best way to prevent bad breath is to stay on top of your child’s oral hygiene and it’s never too early to start. By practicing healthy habits early, you not only prevent problems, but also set your child up for good habits in the future.
Don’t be tempted to use mouthwash. It will only mask the problem and most young children have problems not swallowing it.
Anything that routinely ends up in your child’s mouth should be washed frequently. Hands, thumbs, teddy bears, and security blankets should be washed often. If you use pacifiers they should be sterilized as often as possible in the dishwasher or in boiling water.
Of course, taking your child for regular dental appointments to make sure their mouth continues to stay clean and healthy. If they continue to have bad breath, it’s time to see your doctor.
Oral hygiene guidelines.
The American Dental Association provides guidelines to help you keep your child’s mouth healthy at every age.
- Newborns – You can begin cleaning your baby’s mouth as soon as you come home from the hospital. During the first few weeks after birth wipe their gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth after feedings. You can also use an infant gum stimulator/massager.
- Younger than 3 – Teeth will start emerging in your child’s mouth around six months, though some children don’t have their first tooth until they’re over a year old. You should begin brushing your child’s teeth as soon as they come into their mouths. Use just a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste twice a day.
- 3-6 Year Olds – If your child is between three and six years old make sure to brush their teeth twice a day with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Remind them not to swallow the toothpaste. Monitor your child until you’re comfortable with them doing it on their own.
Welcome those kisses!
Don’t take it personally or fret if your little one has bad breath. Simply be vigilant and consistent with establishing a healthy oral hygiene routine. By teaching your children good habits early on, they can meet their adult years with fresh breath.
No tic-tacs required.