particularly teens, can be very hard on their peers who have bad breath.
Although rarely an indicator of medical problems, it can be very bothersome
and difficult to treat.
breath comes in two varieties – “morning bad breath” and “chronic bad
breath.” Just about everyone awakens with morning bad breath. The bacterial
concentration in anyone’s mouth is the highest when awakening. The long period
of not eating, drinking, or even salivating much lets the bacteria build up.
Brushing the teeth and eating breakfast brings down the number of bacteria and
lessens or eliminates the bad breath.
bad breath occurs when there’s a persistent heavy concentration of bacteria in
your child’s mouth. The odors can come from five places: the back of the
tongue, degrading food particles trapped between the teeth, from the stomach,
occasionally from the tonsils, and periodontitis.
bacteria that cause bad breath are classified as anaerobes – bacteria that
don’t need oxygen to survive and are actually killed when exposed to oxygen. You
may wonder how bacteria in the mouth, a place where there’s lots of oxygen,
can survive if oxygen kills them. Although the larger environment in the mouth
is exposed to oxygen, there are many microenvironments that are free of
oxygen. Bacteria, being so small, find many areas with no oxygen and survive
first area where these odor-producing bacteria live is the back of the tongue.
The bacteria that live here produce malodorous sulfite chemicals. There are two
ways to attack these bacteria. The first is teach your child to brush the back
of his tongue at least twice a day. If this doesn’t work, gargling twice a day
with a hydrogen peroxide solution (half hydrogen peroxide, half water) should do
second place odor-producing problem is food particles
caught between the teeth. The putrification of these food
particles, particularly meat, by anaerobic bacteria results in bad breath. The
treatment is straightforward – remove those particles of food. Flossing is the
best way. Brushing will also help.
third source of bad oral odor is the stomach. This is usually caused by eating
spicy foods (something few children
do) or digestive problems (again something not common
in children). If you believe this is the cause of
child’s problem, then food avoidance may work. If not, then he should be
evaluated by his doctor.
with tonsils can develop food lithes (literally food
stones). About 25% of people with tonsils have this problem.
Food accumulates in the folds and crevices of the tonsils. Bacteria build an
outer protein layer to the gathered food, resulting in what looks like little
white stones. The bacteria produce the foul odor. The food lithes eventually pop
out and are either swallowed or spit out.
last cause is periodontitis – infection of the gums. A child with this
problems has gums that are red, swollen, tender, and may bleed easily.
Periodontitis requires a visit to the dentist. Sometimes antibiotics are
sufficient to treat it. More severe cases need other treatments.
from The Secret Life of Germs: Observations and Lessons From A Microbe Hunter by
Philip M. Tierno, Jr. Ph.D.. Originally appeared in the excellent parenting
newsletter Pediatrics for Parents and posted 11-01-04 on kidsgrowth.com