Halitosis (bad breath) in kids

The word Halitosis refers to the unpleasant odors that come from mouth and nose and it is the scientific nomenclature for BAD BREATH. When one has little children, the care of the mouth and nose is very important to their general health. However, it is an area that is often either neglected or poorly pursued.

Halitosis is one of the commonest concerns especially in young children. Bad breath is very embarrassing, sometimes a nuisance and often a reason to shy away from that individual. The concern of halitosis is therefore a main one in maternal child health. It is very important, however, to not just mask the symptoms of bad breath, but to diagnose and treat the underlying cause.

Most children commonly have bad breath because of an upper respiratory infection. The areas most affected are the post nasal spaces, the tonsils, pharynx, sinuses, and the dental areas: teeth, tongue and gums. Most mothers are pretty good at brushing the child’s teeth, but they often forget to also brush the child’s tongue. In addition, teaching a child to gargle properly is often neglected. The condition is also affected as to whether the illness is acute or chronic. The so-called common cold is a main offender in this regard, as are postnasal drips and allergies.

Often missed in diagnosing the cause of halitosis in kids is the use of that dreaded pacifier, and whether or not the child is a thumb sucker. There has been an historical neglect of simple colds by mothers and fathers, but after doctors recognized Strep Throat and its effects on the human heart, as rheumatic heart disease, parents are more judicious in early treatment of their child’s halitosis.

Tonsillitis has been such a problem with young kids, that there has been an overindulgence in surgically removing the tonsils. Parents must be advised that the tonsils are a part of the reticuloendothelial; a very important component of the child’s immune system. I, myself, was saved from the surgeon’s knife by Dr. Richter, here in West End, Grand Bahama who negated the advice of the ENT doctor to remove my tonsils at age five (surgeons like to do surgery).

Mouth breathing is a situation in many children as it dries up the tissues in the month. This makes any bacterial infection in mouth worse, and causes an increased potency within the bacteria in the mouth.

The treatment of halitosis is varied, just as the many causes that we have listed above. Parents must be aware of ingredients in products and foods that make bad breath: for example, garlic and onion in many preparations. On the other hand, masking the bad breath with things like candy and sugar filled chewing gum, will cause more harm than good because of the potential tooth decay.

It is essential therefore, that before one rushes into antibiotics and other harsh drugs, that the causes of bad breath are elucidated, and one should always be aware that strep throat requires some two weeks of antibiotic therapy.

“A stitch in time, saves nine” is a commonly used phrase to emphasize PREVENTION. Once children’s guardians are made aware of how important the mouth is to the portal of that human temple, then mouth and nasal care would be diligently used. The Q-tip was designed for nasal cleansing and not as commonly practiced in the ear. In fact it is very dangerous to use Q-tips in children’s ears.

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