In many cases, a baby’s breath can smell sweet. There’s even a flower named for this special scent! But eventually, especially as your baby grows and transitions to eating solid foods, their breath might evolve with them. Although the transition from sweet to stinky might be alarming, toddler bad breath is not uncommon and it does not necessarily mean your child is sick or unhealthy. So why is this happening? And how do you start to fix it? Keep reading for a quick guide to understanding the causes and potential solutions for bad breath in kids.


One common contender for the cause of smelly breath is if your child is breathing through their mouth rather than their nose, especially at night. This can simply be caused by a cold or stuffy nose, but sometimes it’s just how your little one prefers to sleep. This practice can lead to xerostomia, or dry mouth, and ultimately halitosis, or bad breath, when there is not enough saliva in the mouth to rinse away some of the oral bacteria. You can wait for their stuffy nose to subside, or if they aren’t sick, you can encourage them to drink lots of water and try to sleep with their mouth closed. 

Toddler bad breath might also stem from a hidden reason. It might seem unlikely, but toddlers are prone to exploration, and that could mean ending up with a small object accidentally stuck in their nose. This can lead to obstructed breathing, and as the object stays there, it starts to get icky to say the least! The best course of action is to see a doctor to have the object removed as soon as possible.


This might seem like an obvious one, but sometimes getting teeth truly clean can be more difficult than it appears. Especially if you have a squirmy kid who doesn’t want to brush teeth or a little rebel sneaking snacks before bedtime. Inadequate dental hygiene is one of the top causes of bad breath in kids, so make sure to supervise your little one as they are brushing their teeth. Create a routine by brushing at least twice a day, try introducing flossing, and encourage them to start brushing their tongue on their own as soon as they can. 

A lesser known culprit of a stinky mouth can be thumb sucking, or sucking on other objects such as a treasured baby blanket. This habit can also cause dry mouth which might lead to bad breath. Not to worry, your child will grow out of this. Just proceed with moistening the mouth regularly with water and keep up a stellar oral hygiene routine!


A not unlikely cause of toddler bad breath is illness. This can be at the root of the issue even if your child no longer appears to have symptoms. Recurring sinus infections for example, can lead to post-nasal drip. Fluid from the sinuses can slide down onto the back of the throat where bacteria from the mouth feeds on it and creates an unpleasant smell. To start to remedy this, you can try a kid safe nasal saline spray or simply use a water vapor from a clean humidifier or the steam in the bathroom after a parent’s shower. 

A few additional culprits are tonsillitis which bad breath can be a symptom of and even seasonal allergies which can contribute to stuffy noses and therefore encourage mouth breathing. Keep in mind that bacterial or viral infections like strep throat can also cause unpleasant odors. So talk to your pediatrician if your child has bad breath along with other symptoms like fever or sore throat. 

At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, we believe that your child’s health comes down to more than just what meets the eye — sometimes what meets the nose is equally important, too! While this guide is a great place to start when investigating the cause of your toddler’s bad breath, it is not an exhaustive list. If you have questions about kids’ breath smells, or any other concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to your passionate Coastal Kids pediatrician by visiting us at