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Bad Breath in Kids: How to Address It

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Bad breath (otherwise known as halitosis) is never fun to deal with, but chances are you or someone you know has been affected by it, since studies show about 50 percent of adults have experienced it at some point.

Personally dealing with bad breath can be a nuisance, but what happens when you notice that your child has bad breath? How do you go about talking to them about it? Dr. Adam Silevitch, an attending pediatric dentist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia and an assistant clinical professor at the Columbia University School of Dental Medicine, is very familiar with this scenario, and has a few pointers for broaching the subject.

Discussing Bad Breath With Kids

“I tell parents to keep it casual but also be real with their kid,” says Silevitch. “Some kids and teens can be very sensitive when it comes to this topic, so I cater my discussion based on each patient's needs. I never assign blame to a child. Blaming a child just makes them anxious or angry about the situation. I try to keep it light and always positive and try to infuse some humor.”

If you notice your child occasionally has bad breath, taking Dr. Silevitch’s approach and using a little bit of humor, along with being real and explaining bad breath can be a common problem, is a great way to help your child feel comfortable, while also motivating them to fix the issue.

When Bad Breath Is a Sign of a Bigger Health Problem

According to both Dr. Silevitch and the ADA, prolonged bad breath can be a sign of a bigger health issue.

“If I have ruled out a dental infection and the patient has great oral hygiene practices, then halitosis could be the result of other medical issues like a sinus infection, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), diabetes, or liver or kidney disease,” says Silevitch. He goes on to say that in these instances, he’d recommend the patient (whether they’re an adult or child) see their primary care physician or pediatrician.

Even though a conversation about bad breath with your child may not be the easiest, bringing it up with them, as well as with their dentist, can allow for certain health issues to either be ruled out or investigated further.

How to Avoid Bad Breath

Two of the best ways to fight back against bad breath is to brush twice a day, as well as floss. If you’ve got young children over the age of two, Aquafresh Bubblemint Toothpaste can help protect their teeth from sugar acid (thanks to added fluoride), as well as cavities. And if your child is sensitive to extreme tastes, it's fun flavor provides a mild way to freshen their breath. (Parents, make sure you ask your dentist when it’s appropriate to start brushing your child’s teeth with a fluoride toothpaste.)

Helping kids brush their tongue is another great way to protect against bad breath, as a lot of the bacteria that causes halitosis is found on the tongue.

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