What Are the Causes of Infant Bad Breath?

Infant Bad Breath

We usually do not think of infants when the subject of bad breath is raised.

The cute and sweet nature of babies does not go along with foul breath in babies, right? Well, we live in a world where nothing is impossible, and a series of factors can trigger bad breath.

Many mothers may notice bad breath in their babies and shouldn’t be surprised if a health complication causes it.

Read on to find out more.

Health complications that can cause infant bad breath

If your child has bad breath, you’re going to have to look for the source. Parents should know that the triggers of bad breath in a child are diverse. The foul breath should not be ignored in infants because it may signify an infection in the stomach, throat, or mouth.

The following include some possible health complications that may cause bad breath in infants:


Sinusitis may be one potential cause of foul breath. Babies may experience other symptoms, including nasal secretion and sneezing, if they suffer from sinusitis.

Although symptoms of sinusitis are similar to cold symptoms, sinusitis can last a lot longer. The condition could be caused by some allergic reactions, which may lead to the passage of stuffy sinus.

Naturally, this would affect the baby’s breathing, and be forced to breathe through their mouth. This would inevitably cause the saliva in the mouth to dry up.

Less than usual, saliva contributes to a dry mouth, which can cause bad breath in babies. To avoid further complications, it is best to fix an appointment with your doctor to discuss the best treatment option.

Enlarged Tonsils

Enlarged tonsils or adenoids are other medical problems that may contribute to bad breath. Mothers may observe visibly red, swollen, spotted tonsils with bad smell, whereas healthy tonsils are pink and spot-free.

Bacteria can accumulate in the back of the mouth of your infant, and this can cause stinky breath, combined with the sour odour of infection. If your baby’s tonsils appear red or swollen, you should have her checked by your doctor. Your physician may prescribe antibiotics to combat the infection properly.

Acid Reflux

It is not unusual for children to experience acid reflux, which can cause bad breath. The complication is commonly accompanied by food regurgitation. Acid reflux occurs when the muscle ring between the oesophagus and the stomach is not mature enough to hold food in.

This then causes the contents of the stomach to flow backward, causing the baby to spit up. As your baby gets older, this condition is rarely severe and should reduce. Fortunately, acid reflux does not continue beyond the age of 18 months.

Parents shouldn’t be worried about reflux in their babies as the condition generally clears up on its own.

Notwithstanding, the steps you can take to manage the symptoms of acid reflux include:

  • Maintain a smaller portion of food for your baby
  • Ensure to burp your baby partway during food-time
  • Position your baby upward for about 20 to 30 minutes after they’ve eaten
  • Try interchanging the formula you give your baby
  • Use different sizes of nipples on your infant’s baby bottle. Using nipples that are either too large or too small may make your child swallow air
  • Avoid dairy products or beef if you are still breast-feeding your child. This will help you know if your child is allergic to what you eat

Immediate medications aren’t advised for infants with less severe cases of acid reflux. However, if medication is required, your paediatrician may recommend some acid-blocking medication such as Prilosec for children who are one year and above or Zantac for infants who are 12 months and below.

Typically, controlling your infant’s reflux should help in eliminating bad breath.

Less severe cases of infant bad breath

While it is easy to suspect a health complication in infants with bad breath, this may not always be the case. Some of the foods and drinks you present your child may remain around the gums or on the tongue, and this can cause some bacterial growth; which in turn leads to infant bad breath.

The following may inspire less severe cases of bad breath in your child:

Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking in children is very common, and it can be noticed in at least 80 per cent of infant. This simple act can cause dry mouth, hence increasing bacteria infestation, which ultimately causes bad breath in infants.

Many children between the ages of 2 – 4 forgo this habit, with about 12 per cent of them stopping when they are four years old. Treatment isn’t necessary for controlling this habit since many kids stop sucking on their own.

Nonetheless, alleviating infant bad breath caused by sucking of thumb may require the use of a soft washcloth with warm water to clean your child’s mouth, tongue, and gum daily.

Pacifier Use

Saliva and some oral bacteria are transferred when babies suck on their pacifier. This may cause your babies’ pacifier to smell bad, which can be transferred into your infant’s mouth when next they suck on their pacifier.

It is even worse when parents don’t take the time to clean their baby’s pacifier after use which can easily promote the increase of bacteria and trigger infant bad breath.

Parents can control the terrible breath in their babies by stopping the use of a paci altogether. However, if your child isn’t ready to give up their toy, then it would help to sterilize often to eliminate the germs and bacteria present.

While most kids between the ages of 2 – 4 years old stop the use of pacifiers, it would be best to consult your dentist or paediatrician of your kid is reluctant about giving it up.

Foreign Object

It isn’t uncommon for babies to have tiny foreign objects stuck in their nose or mouth. Not only can this affect your child’s breathing, but it can also develop foul breath in your baby.

If you suspect that your child has something stuck in their nose or mouth that may be difficult for you to remove, then it is best you consult with your health care providers immediately.

This would also minimize further complications that may be inspired by these objects.

Sugar in Diet

Bottle-fed babies may experience bacterial growth in their mouth when given milk or formula, and this can ultimately lead to bad breath.

Parents can manage these oral bacteria and bad breath by practising good oral care with their child.

  • Clean your baby’s mouth, gums, and tongue at least twice daily, particularly after feedings or before bedtime. This would help to prevent any potential build-up of bacteria in your child’s mouth
  • If your child can’t sleep without a bottle in their mouth, then it would be best to change the content to water to discourage bacteria growth that can cause bad breath
  • Parents should ensure they monitor their child’s sugar intake, particularly in older babies. Excess consumption of sugar can encourage the growth of bacteria that can cause infant bad breath

When infant bad breath may be a sign of a more severe complication

As stated earlier, foul breath in young children could be an indication of a serious infection. Parents should consult with their child’s dentist or paediatrician if they notice the breath of their child doesn’t smell so good. Ignoring this sign may be potentially fatal as it could be a sign of something more serious.

The following are some possible complications that may cause infant bad breath:


It has been discovered that type 1 diabetes can affect children when their pancreas doesn’t provide insulin. This is a hormone that is responsible for helping the body get energy from food.

The decrease or absence in insulin can cause the body’s immune system to attack and destroy insulin-producing cells. One of the apparent symptoms of this complication includes bad breath in infants.

Chronic Kidney Disease

This condition occurs when there is a reduction in kidney function or a severe case of kidney damage. A study found that about 20.1 per cent of kids below the age of 2 experience this condition.

The symptoms of this condition can include:

  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting
  • A general feeling of sickness
  • Chronic urinary tract infections
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Bad breath
  • Stomach mass
  • Headache
  • Stunted growth

It helps to inform your paediatrician if you notice your child has bad breath. This would allow the doctor to determine the cause of the nasty smell and the best way to tackle it.

Parents should also minimize the number of items they introduce into their baby’s mouth that may cause bad breath. Fresher breath can be maintained by providing your child with healthy oral care.

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