Bad Breath in Teenagers

By Sara Ipatenco
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Teens can be smelly creatures. Between the body odor and smelly feet, you might think it can't get much worse. Many teens also experience bad breath, also called halitosis, which can be embarrassing and get in the way of social interaction. In most cases, bad breath in teens is easy to get rid of, but in a small number of instances, it requires medical intervention.


Bad breath in teens can be caused by a number of different things. Improper brushing can cause bad breath because when your teen doesn't whisk away all the lingering bits of food, her mouth will grow bacteria. That bacteria can make her breath smell bad. Mouth problems, such as gum disease and chronic dry mouth, can also lead to bad breath, according to the American Dental Association. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease and lung infections, can also cause your teen to develop bad breath. Smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco, taking certain medications and having a mouth infection are additional reasons why your teen's breath might smell bad.

Oral Hygiene

Because improper brushing is a primary cause of bad breath, teaching your teen proper oral hygiene can drastically cut his risk of developing halitosis. Teens should brush for at least two minutes twice a day and floss once a day. Proper brushing and flossing gets rid of food particles so the bacteria that causes halitosis isn't able to grow. Severe plaque build-up can lead to gum disease, and that happens when your teen doesn't brush well enough or often enough. The American Dental Association recommends biannual trips to the dentist, too. Your teen should also brush his tongue and replace his toothbrush every three months, the website recommends.

Other Preventative Measures

Encourage your teen to avoid foods that cause bad breath, such as garlic, onions and sugary snacks. Your teen might notice that other foods cause her to develop bad breath, and she'll want to avoid those, too. If your teen smokes or uses tobacco, ask her pediatrician about tips for helping her kick the habit, which will decrease her risk of bad breath. While mouthwash and breath mints won't cure bad breath, they can mask it when your teen is on the go and can't stop to brush. KidsHealth recommends looking for mouthwash that is antiseptic, which means it kills germs, that also bears the seal from the American Dental Association.


If your teen has tried improving his teeth brushing and flossing habits and has taken other preventative measures to no avail, make an appointment with his pediatrician. Your teen's doctor will ask a series of questions and possibly run some tests to determine if there's an underlying medical condition that's causing bad breath. Tell your teen's doctor what medications he's taking, too, because certain prescriptions can cause bad breath. Talk to your teen's pediatrician if he complains of heartburn because that can also cause halitosis, according to Treating the heartburn can often reduce the bad breath.