Tonsil stones, also known as tonsilloliths, are collections of bacteria and food debris that become stuck in the crevices of the tonsils. They can sometimes cause discomfort and bad breath. But there are some simple solutions for getting rid of tonsil stones.
Understanding Tonsil Stones
What are tonsil stones?
The definition sounds grim! Tonsil stones, also known as tonsilloliths, are calcified particles of bacteria and other debris that can develop in the crevices of the tonsils. They are most common in people who suffer from chronic inflammation of their tonsils and those who have large tonsils.
The stones vary in size from barely visible to being the size of a pea, and can be yellow or white in color. They are formed when particles from your saliva, or from food or potentially even from other airborne contaminants, get stuck in the folds of your tonsils.
Initially absolutely harmless, over time these particles can calcify, as they are lodged inside the tonsil folds.
To reassure you, this is a rare condition, and very few people ever suffer from them. If you have them, however, they can be very frustrating.
Tonsil stones symptoms
The symptoms are in some respects those you might expect from blockages in the tonsil area. The following are the most common:
- Bad breath, or halitosis, as it is more grandly called
- Difficulties with swallowing
- Sore throats
- Some swelling in the tonsils with the associated discomfort that brings.
Other symptoms, perhaps less expected, include ear pain, and even pain in the neck or jaw.
Of course, having one or more of these symptoms does not in any way necessarily mean you have tonsil stones, but you may nonetheless wish to investigate whether it is indeed tonsil stones that are linked to these ailments.
Ways to Prevent Tonsil Stones
Avoiding certain foods
The foods to avoid are foods that it is often sensible to eat only moderately anyway.
Typically, sugary products and greasy foods have been associated with tonsil stones. Red meats have also been linked to the condition. Even dairy products, perhaps less expectedly, have been linked to tonsil stones.
If you find you suffer from the symptoms above, it may be wise to monitor your intake of these foods and see if the symptoms change accordingly.
Practicing good oral hygiene
In addition, always remember that dental hygiene is not a myth! It really does matter to all round oral health. The following approaches are pretty much essential to follow.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day. And if you can manage it at work, even try brushing your teeth after lunch, or a mid-morning or mid-afternoon break.
- Floss regularly too. Ideally, daily.
- In addition, some may find it helpful to use a tongue scraper occasionally to get rid of undue levels of gunk or bacteria on the tongue.
- Use a mouthwash to keep bacteria levels down. Ideally, do so at least once a day. The mint flavoring most of them have also works as an antiseptic, as well as tasting good!
- Hydrate often. This keeps the mouth working well and flushes through any debris that may be lying in the mouth.
And of course make sure to visit your dental hygienist or dentist for regular check-ups.
Drinking plenty of water
Water drinking is of particular importance because more than all other drinks it can help flush out bacteria and toxins from the throat, which can reduce the risk of tonsil stones forming.
In addition, it works to ensure all round skin hydration, inside and outside. This is of significance, as dehydration can increase the risk of tonsil stones.
The key is to make sure to drink a little water regularly; even if you are not especially thirsty, take a sip or two.
Taking a probiotic supplement
Probiotics can also help, as they contain beneficial bacteria that improve the balance of microorganisms in our gut. These good bacteria keep our immune system healthy, and this overall focus on our immune system world also to assist the body in flushing itself clean and preventing tonsil stones.
The probiotics loosen and remove the bacteria, dead cells and mucus that cause tonsil stones, and they also work to reduce any inflammation in the throat, a key aid to avoiding tonsil stones.
Home Remedies for Getting Rid of Tonsil Stones
Gargling with warm salt water
Salt water gargling has many benefits for many areas of our health. This is due to salt water’s cleansing properties, and in the case of tonsil stones, salt water gargling thins the mucus and cleanses the throat of bacteria.
All you need is a glass of warm water and a teaspoon of salt. Do not oversalt, as this is neither necessary nor tasty.
Applying an ice pack
The science around this is not entirely certain, but some people have reported success with this method.
Wrap an ice pack in a cloth or towel and hold it against your neck or throat for 15-20 minutes at a time. Carry this out a couple of times a day initially, and monitor your body’s response. Any tingling you feel is not likely to be at all harmful and it will soon dissipate.
Using a cotton swab
This is a less comfortable approach, so be careful before trying it.
Also, make absolutely sure to sanitize the cotton swab so that you don’t transfer any bacteria from your mouth to your hands. Additionally, you may want to use a mirror so that you can really see where the tonsil stone is located.
This process is not for everyone, and we would generally not suggest this approach as the first approach to take. It can naturally induce gagging, and that can be uncomfortable for many.
Medical Options for Treating Tonsil Stones
Antibiotics need care. They will not remove the actual tonsil stones, and they are used to provide relief, rather than cut off the actual source of the problem.
That being said, if you are in significant discomfort and have a throat infection on account of the stones, the doctor may recommend a course of antibiotics to kill any infection.
Surgery will only ever be a last resort and will come after significant medical advice beforehand. As with all surgery, you need to be wise to the risks. All surgery can leave behind infection, scarring, and damage to surrounding tissue if not carried out effectively. Given the importance of the throat, it is essential you have surgery done to the highest possible standards.
If you have effective surgery, there are of course huge benefits, as you will be free from the distress the tonsil stones cause. It is an area that is, in many respects, down to personal choice and circumstance.
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