Causes of Bad Breath In Babies

Causes of Bad Breath in Babies

Help! My baby has bad breath! What can I do?

When we think of bad breath, we usually associate it with adults, or children who do not brush their teeth properly.

With babies, we just love to cuddle and kiss them on their chubby cheeks. We will never imagine our babies having bad breath (that is so not cool!). So if you discover, while holding your baby to your nose, and smelling a whiff of bad breath, do not fret.

This article will explain clearly the causes of bad breath in babies, and what we can do about it.

What causes Bad Breath in Babies

Causes due to health conditions

The human mouth is a petri dish filled with bacteria, the perfect multiplier which reacts with many substances found in food, to produce bad breath.

In babies, certain health conditions are also known for causing bad breath in babies.

They are as follows:

  • Allergy or cold. In the instances of your babies having cold, extra mucus allows bacteria to grow, leading to bad breath. Just like adults, babies with stuffy nose will breathe through their mouths. Mouth breathing can result in bad breath becasue their oral tissues become dry.
  • Nasal causes like chronic sinus infection. With sinus attacks, fluid builds up in the nasal passages and drips down the back of the throat.

Usually, this will be accompanied by other symptoms such as prolonged runny nose and cough. Your child may also have nasal discharge and sneezing.

Even though it may look like a cold, it lasts longer and leads to stuffy sinus passages. This causes your baby to breathe through his mouth and dries up his saliva.

  • Acid reflex. Acid reflex happens when the ring of muscles between the gullet and the stomach is not fully developed. When hungry babies drink too much milk, milk may flow backwards and they throw up. This can be quite scary, but reflex in babies usually clears up by itself.

However, you can help by giving them smaller, frequent feeds. Burp your baby half way through the feed, and hold them upright for 20 to 30 minutes after feeding.

  • Enlarged tonsils. Grab a flashlight and look down your baby’s mouth. Healthy tonsils should be pink and spot free, while infected ones are red, swollen and smell terrible. Bacteria collects at the back of the throat and together with the infected tonsils, produce bad breath. Your baby may feel uncomfortable and cry often.

In rare instances, bad breath can be a sign of more serious health conditions.

These health conditions may happen even though chances are quite rare.

  • Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes occurs when a pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that helps your body get energy from food. When this happens, the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. One of the symptoms is bad breath.

  • Chronic Kidney Disease

This occurs when there is irreversible kidney damage or a reduction in kidney function. Symptoms of chronic kidney disease can include poor appetite, vomiting, headache and also bad breath.

Causes due to habits

Other non medical causes of baby bad breath are mainly due to habits.

  • Food and drinks. These may stick to their tongues and gums, causing bacteria to grow, which produces the bad smell.

Bottle-fed babies tend to drink their milk before bedtime, and this leads to the accumulation of bacteria growth. Simply wipe down your babies’ gums at least twice a day especially after feeds. Otherwise, switch to bottled water for last feed instead of milk, if they are dependent on bottles to fall asleep.

  • Thumb sucking. 80 percent of babies like to suck their thumbs as their ways of soothing themselves.

However, this can lead to dry mouth with increased bacteria. Most children will give up this habit, with persistent ones, by age of 4. To overcome this, just use a warm, soft washcloth to clean your little one’s mouth, gums and tongue regularly. If thumb sucking persists beyond 4 years and more, perhaps a doctor’s advice will be needed.

  • Pacifier use. The pacifier is an excellent collector of saliva and oral bacteria once it sits in your baby’s mouth. With every frequent use, it starts to exhibit an unpleasant smell, and as it returns to his mouth, the bacteria gets transferred to his mouth. As a result, he gets bad breath. This is the same effect with toys, as babies cannot resist putting toys in their mouths.

Without frequent washing, pacifiers are sure agents for causing bad breath in babies. Either go cold turkey to removing the pacifier, or take time to sterilize to remove the germs. Or do not introduce at all.

  • Sugar in diet. Sugar in a baby’s diet feeds the bacteria in the mouth. By removing or limiting sugar, bad breath will rarely occur.
  • Mouth breathing. Babies bad breath can also be a result of mouth breathing vs nose breathing. Mouth breathing usually occurs as soon as baby sleeps. The muscles in the mouth relax and the production of saliva stops, leaving the mouth dry. Bacteria then grows. The longer the baby sleeps, the higher the bacteria in the mouth. That is why we all have this so called “morning breath”. So this seems normal and no cause for worry.

What we can do about it

Bad breath in babies can be prevented most of the times by simple oral habits. If the bad breath is caused by oral causes, simply brush and clean babies’ gums and tongues with a warm soft cloth after every feed.

Visit a dentist if you suspect of tooth decay, any infections or other health issues.

Get your baby’s breath smelling nice again

There you have it. Just like adults, babies are also prone to develop bad breath. There are a variety of different causes, from bacteria buildup in the mouth to stomach issues. Once you understand the cause of your baby’s bad breath, diligently work to get rid of it.

If symptoms do persist, and you are concerned about your baby’s bad breath, do seek medical advice.

Treating an underlying condition will improve bad breath, and soon your babies will have nice smelling baby’s breaths again.

If you like my article, please share to your friends with babies.

2 thoughts on “Causes of Bad Breath in Babies”

  1. Very interesting article. I didn’t realize babies could have bad breath. I can certainly see how wiping their mouth and gums would remove bacteria and help their developing teeth come in healthier. I am sure you will help many young mothers.


Leave a Comment