Dear Dr Nina: 'My three-year-old has such bad breath - could it be his tummy?'
Our resident GP answers your medical queries.
Q. My three-year-old has bad breath but his teeth are all in good condition and he cleans his teeth regularly. I feel it is coming from his tummy. Should I get him checked out?
Dr Nina replies: Halitosis is the medical term for bad breath. We have all experienced garlic breath at some stage. Onions and spicy foods can also cause halitosis. Morning breath is a concept we are all familiar with. This occurs due to the fact that we produce less saliva at night. Our mouths become drier, and this allows food debris and dead skin cells that are normally washed away to accumulate.
Any disease of the mouth will increase the chance of halitosis. Bacteria colonising the tongue can produce sulphur compounds and may cause halitosis. Small stones can occur on the tonsils. These are usually composed mainly of calcium but they can contain other minerals, which may produce gases, which lead to halitosis. Those who suffer with chronic sinus problems and congestion may have increased levels of bacteria present, which can
affect breath. These people also tend to mouth-breathe — this leads to a dry mouth, which is another cause of halitosis.
Another common cause of halitosis can be acid reflux or stomach problems. Helicobacter pylorus is a bacterium that can live in the stomach and lead to conditions such as heartburn or gastritis.
The first step in figuring out the cause is to pay a visit to the dentist to ensure good gum and dental health. Drink plenty of water, as a dry mouth can emit unpleasant odours. Brush teeth and tongue regularly and after consuming smelly and spicy foods. Using a daily antibacterial mouthwash can help too.
Visit your doctor to be assessed for any sinus, throat or gastrointestinal problems. If any of these are suspected, specialist referral can be organised.