What Are Tonsil Stones?
Tonsilloliths, commonly known as tonsil stones, form on or in your tonsils. The small, hard stones can be white or yellow and vary in size. On the small end, tonsil stones resemble grains of rice, but they can be as large as grapes.
Usually, tonsil stones don’t cause problems, but sometimes they grow too large (bigger than grapes), and affect your tonsils. Tonsil stones often smell bad and can make your tonsils swell.
What Causes Tonsil Stones?
To understand what causes tonsil stones, it helps to know what tonsils look like. Imagine small ball-like structures with lots of crevices, tunnels, and pits. Unfortunately, there are loads of nooks and crannies for bacteria, germs, and debris to hide in, and that’s how you get tonsil stones.
When the bacteria and debris builds up, it forms tonsil stones in the crevices. The calcified stones can grow and multiply.
What Are the Symptoms of Tonsil Stones?
Many people have no idea they have tonsil stones because they can be hard to see. However, tonsil stones cause some notable symptoms. If you notice a few of these symptoms happening at the same time, it could indicate tonsil stones.
- Constant bad breath
- Sore throat
- Persistent cough
- White or yellow debris may be noticeable on your tonsils
- Difficulty swallowing
- Persistent ear pain
- Swollen tonsils
How Do You Get Rid of Tonsil Stones?
For the most part, tonsilloliths are harmless, but they can be smelly, gross, or uncomfortable. If you have tonsil stones and want to get rid of them, you have several options.
Home Remedies for Removing Tonsil Stones at Home
There are three main ways to address tonsil stones at home. You may need to use a combination of all three options to get rid of the tonsil stones.
Gargling effectively can help resolve several problems and improve your oral health. To get rid of tonsil stones, there are a few different solutions you can use, but it’s also important to do it properly.
- Take as much fluid in your mouth as you can. It shouldn’t be uncomfortable.
- Gargle the mixture around the back of your mouth and throat.
- Spit out the mixture in the sink and rinse again with pure water.
The best fluids for getting rid of tonsil stones by gargling include:
- Salt water
- Vinegar diluted with water, especially apple cider vinegar
- Essential oils, like myrrh, thieves oil, and lemongrass
Some people manage to cough up the stones. If you cough enough that it reaches the tonsil, you can dislodge the tonsilloliths.
Certain foods have properties that make them effective against tonsil stones. If you have tonsilloliths, try increasing your intake of the following foods.
- Garlic combats bacteria and possesses antifungal and antiviral properties.
- Yogurt has probiotics that could counteract the growth of bacteria.
- Apples combat bacteria with their acidity.
- Chewing raw carrots increases saliva production to fight build up naturally.
Can Your Dentist Remove Tonsil Stones?
It is not recommended that you attempt manual removal of tonsil stones, so if the above processes don’t clear away your tonsil stones, it’s time to see your dentist or a medical professional. Your dentist may be able to help with manual removal, but if your situation progressed too far, you may need surgical intervention.
Medical/Surgical Tonsilloliths Treatment
- Laser Cryptolysis involves local anesthesia and using a laser to remove the crevices where tonsil stones form. Expect minimal discomfort and short recovery time.
- Coblation Cryptolysis uses radio waves and a salt solution to eliminate the crevices without the heat of a laser.
- Tonsillectomy involves the surgical removal of your tonsils, and it’s usually reserved for frequent infections of the tonsils instead of tonsil stones.
- Antibiotics is an effective treatment that can limit the buildup of bacteria that forms the tonsil stones.
Complications of tonsil stones remain extremely rare, though in extreme cases abscesses can form. Additionally, extra large tonsil stones can damage tonsil tissue and require surgery.
How to Prevent Tonsil Stones?
It’s nearly impossible to prevent tonsil stones, however, good oral hygiene can help. Brushing and flossing frequently and irrigating your mouth and tonsils with water. For people who have chronic tonsillitis, tonsil stones may be a frequent occurrence. In those circumstances, the only way to prevent more tonsil stones is to have your tonsils removed.
Tonsil Stones FAQs
Why Do People Get Tonsil Stones?
Tonsil stones generally occur due to poor oral hygiene or chronic tonsillitis.
How Long Do Tonsil Stones Last?
The time varies from several weeks to years. Sometimes issues with tonsil stones resolve on their own over time. However, if you ignore them and fail to make lifestyle changes, they can last for years.
Are Tonsil Stones Contagious?
No. They form from the buildup of bacteria from your mouth and can’t be passed on to other people.
Do Tonsil Stones Hurt?
Tonsil stones don’t usually hurt, however, if they grow too large, they can cause throat pain and swelling.
Can Tonsil Stones Make You Sick?
In extreme cases, tonsil stones can irritate your tonsils enough to cause an infection.
If you’re concerned about tonsil stones, the friendly team at Jefferson Dental and Orthodontics can help! Book an appointment with the office nearest you.