Tonsil Stones: Questions and Answers Learn More about Tonsilloliths
What are tonsil stones?
Tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths, are small accumulations of food debris, bacteria, and other particles that attach themselves to the tonsils. They cause bad breath, and can sometimes lead to a sore throat, swelling, and even pain in the mouth and face.
Are tonsil stones dangerous?
Tonsil stones are not as dangerous as they are irritating. They can usually be flushed away with little effort. However, if allowed to remain for a long period of time, bacteria can build up and lead to infection, sore throat, and illness.
If I have tonsil stones, do I also have tonsillitis?
Tonsilloliths are not necessarily a sign of tonsillitis. Of course, swelling in the tonsils due to tonsillitis can make it easier for tonsillotliths to become attached and wedged into the folds in the tonsils. If you seem to be prone to repeated issues with these stones, it would be wise to consult with your physician because tonsillitis may be a factor. However, many people who suffer from tonsilloliths have never had the infection, itself.
Can tonsil stones be prevented?
You can prevent tonsil stones from forming in a number of ways. The following factors are key both in prevention and in overall care of your mouth and throat:
• Practice good oral hygiene. This is the first step in prevention because excess food debris that is not removed regularly contributes to the formation of tonsilloliths.
• Drink a lot of water. If you are continually flushing your mouth and throat with water throughout the day, you will be washing down the food particles and debris that can form to cause stones.
• Avoid sugary beverages. When you drink soda and sugar laden beverages, the sugary liquids deposit residue on the tonsils, which in turn, create excellent foundations for tonsil stones.
• See your dentist regularly. While a regular professional cleaning is very important, your dentist will also examine your mouth and throat and will likely spot the beginning formations of tonsilloliths.
If I have tonsilloliths, do I have to have them removed by a doctor?
Most tonsilloliths can be removed without the assistance of a physician. You can usually perform the removal at home with warm water and a cotton swab. However, if you are finding the process difficult, your doctor can usually remove them in his office with a quick, painless procedure.
Do tonsilloliths ever lead to surgery?
The only time you will require surgery for the removal of tonsil stones is when the existence of the stones coincides with chronic tonsillitis. If your tonsils are swollen from infection, it is more likely that debris will get caught in the crypts and folds of your tonsils. In these conditions, the stones are actually a symptom of a larger problem, and your physician may elect to perform surgery to remove the tonsils altogether.
This surgery, of course, would be needed due to the infections and not simply to remove the tonsilloliths. In this case, the tonsil stones are a symptom of a larger problem, not the problem, itself.
Tonsil Stones and Their Causes
Preventing Tonsil Stones Where You Can
Tonsil Stones: A Definition
Tonsil stones are calcifications of microscopic debris, tiny food particles, bacteria, and mucous, that have attached themselves to your tonsil. They are not uncommon, and while they cause severe
bad breath, a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and sometimes swelling and inflammation, the are easy to treat. What is interesting about these tonsilloliths, as they are also called, is that they can be caused by so many different factors.
Not all materials that enter your throat enter through your mouth. Remember that your mouth, nose, and ears are all connected, and sufferers from postnasal drip are quite susceptible to tonsil stones. Postnasal drip is marked by a continual drainage of mucous from your sinuses and nose, directly into the back of your throat. It can cause an irritation of the throat lining and a persistent cough. It can also leave deposits of sticky mucous on your tonsils, inviting other debris to attach itself and become lodged in a crevice in your tonsil.
Tonsil stones caused by postnasal drip often go unnoticed. The irritation in the throat caused by nasty tonsil stones is attributed to the primary problem, and the tonsil stones are allowed to grow, and possibly cause complications such as inflammation and infection.
Allergies and Congenital Issues
Some people are more susceptible to tonsil stones than others due to their own physical traits. For example, those who have overactive salivary glands will possibly suffer from tonsil stones more readily than others because the saliva carries particles and debris into the throat before they have the opportunity to clean their teeth and rinse their mouths.
Allergies or reactions to dairy products can cause swelling in the throat, trapping some of the dairy in the throat. Dairy products offer easy growth opportunities for bacteria, and make the formation of tonsil stones easy and likely. Other particles will attach themselves to the newly planted “garden” of bacteria in the crevice in your tonsil.
Sometimes infection is caused by tonsil stones; sometimes they are made more likely because of infection. Swollen tonsils, caused by tonsillitis, a strep infection, or other illness, make ideal environments for tonsil stones because the crevices swell around the debris, trapping them inside.
Poor Oral Hygiene
While there are some conditions you cannot control, you certainly can contribute to your own oral health. Your dentist consistently recommends brushing and flossing for the sake of the health of your teeth; however, these activities also contribute to the health of your throat and your tonsils. Obviously, a dirty mouth will be full of food particles that, when washed into the throat by saliva and simply swallowing, can lodge themselves in the crypts in your tonsils and lead to tonsil stones.
Bacteria are also an issue when it comes to oral hygiene. Leftover food particles in the mouth will lead to a growth and spread of bacteria, which will also contribute to the calcification of tonsil stones. This is another case in which stones may go unnoticed because poor oral health also leads to pain in the throat and mouth, and to bad breath.
Tonsil Stones: Treatment and Prevention
Put an End to Foul Smelling Tonsilloliths
Tonsil stones are annoying, embarrassing, and often painful. Studies have shown that if a person experiences a single tonsil stone, he or she will likely suffer from recurring instances throughout his life. However, tonsil stones are not a condition that you just have to live with. They can be treated and they can be prevented, at little expense or trouble to the individual.
There are a number of methods for removing nasty tonsil stones once you know that they are the problem you are experiencing. These treatments exist on a scale from an easy and non invasive procedure you can do at home in your bathroom to a surgical procedure done in the hospital.
• Remove the tonsil stones using a cotton swab and warm water. This procedure is great for larger tonsil stones that are easy to see and to manipulate.
• If your gag reflex will not allow you to remove your tonsil stones with a swab, oral irrigation devices are another great tool for removal. Use warm water to flush away the stone.
• If you find that your tonsil stones are too deeply lodged, due to inflammation or simply due to the positioning, you can see your doctor who will use a local anesthetic and remove the stone in his office.
• For some, tonsil stones are caused by inflammation due to chronic tonsillitis. For others, the chronic existence of tonsil stones lead to inflammation and infection. In either case, the decision may be made to remove the tonsils altogether. This is a surgical procedure that will require a hospital stay.
Of course, if it is possible to prevent tonsil stones from every occurring, this will be highly preferred over treating them once they occur. There are a few steps that can be taken to avoid the
calcification of the stones in the first place, although they cannot be prevented 100% of the time.
• Practice regular and thorough oral hygiene. Your oral health will be a very important factor in the prevention of tonsil stones. Because they are caused, in part, by tiny particles and debris from your mouth, brushing and flossing your teeth and cleaning your tongue regularly will make a huge difference in the amount of bacteria and debris available to cause tonsil stones.
• Use oxygenating products. Multiple studies have shown that oxygenating toothpaste and mouthwash are effective in killing germs and bacteria; these are the same germs and bacteria that can lodge themselves in crypts in the tonsils and lay the foundation for nasty tonsil stones.
• Drink lots of water and avoid sugary drinks. Drinking water throughout the day constantly flushes debris down and away from the throat. Sugary drinks, on the other hand, can leave a sticky residue in the throat and on the tonsils, creating an easy road for tonsil stones to form.
• Take care of your sinuses. Bacteria and debris come from other sources than just your nose. Mucous from your sinuses can drain into your throat, calcifying in the crevices of your tonsils.