If you've ever shied away from someone - a coworker, a date, a friend or a family member - because of their bad breath, you were likely offended less by them than by the billions of bacteria on their tongue. After all, microbes in the mouth are responsible for an estimated 90 percent of halitosis.
A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that individuals with large colonies of anaerobic microorganisms on their tongues tended to have stronger-smelling breath than those without them.
Furthermore, researchers determined that the surface of one's tongue can affect the extent of bacterial colonization there. For example, the team found that people with fissures, meaning small grooves or cracks, in their tongues often had stronger bad breath.
Similarly, the report suggested that halitosis may be associated with "geographic tongue," a condition in which the taste buds are rough and discolored, forming a map-like shape on the top of the muscle.
Fortunately, specialty breath freshening rinses can neutralize odor compounds and target odors produced by anaerobic bacteria, all without using sodium lauryl sulfate or other canker sore-causing chemicals to do so.