Do you get mints offered to you regularly? Has your breath been extremely bad recently despite you doing your best to maintain good dental hygiene? Does it always feel like you’ve got a lump at the back of your throat? All of these symptoms, (and a few more discussed below) all point to the possibility of you having tonsil stones.
The name tonsil stone does sound intimidating because it’s usually associated with inflammation and infection, but, don’t be alarmed. Most of the time, they are quite small in size and tend to go away on their own. If they don’t, with the help of this article, you can learn to spot their symptoms, catch them on time and either remove them yourself or have a doctor do it for you.
So without further ado, let’s get into everything you need to know about tonsil stones!
What are tonsil stones and how are they formed?
To understand tonsil stones, you first need to understand what tonsils are. Tonsils are two glands that sit at the back of your throat on either side. They are a part of your lymphatic system which means their role is mainly to prevent foreign objects like bacteria or viruses from entering your body. They also produce white blood cells and antibodies that are used to fight the infections in your throat.
These tonsils have crevices called crypts were old food particles, dead bacteria, and cells tend to get trapped in the mucus. Over time, these depositions get attacked by the white blood cells from your tonsils since they are foreign objects. This causes them to turn into hard, yellow, or white-colored rock-like structures, known as tonsil stones.
Tonsil stones can range anywhere from being the size of a rice grain to that of a mini golf ball. The larger they get, the more problematic they can be and will usually require professional help to be removed. But before we get into treatment, let’s look at the symptoms of tonsil stones.
5 Symptoms of Tonsil Stones:
#1 Bad breath:
The most common symptom of tonsil stones is bad breath. This is caused by the bacteria that live in these stones and give off sulfide gases that end up leaving a bad smell in your mouth regardless of how much you brush or floss!
#2 Difficulty in swallowing, breathing, and eating:
With tonsil stones, it’s also very common to feel like you have a lump at the back of your throat which makes it harder to breathe, eat, drink, or swallow. The presence of all the bacteria in the tonsil stones can lead to inflammation and infection in the tonsils causing them to swell up, hence forming the ‘lump’. This does depend on the size and the exact location of the stone but it can be painful and cause major discomfort.
#3 White or yellow spots on tonsils:
If you have large tonsils or a greater number of tonsils, you will either see white spots on your tonsils or tiny stones at the back of your throat. These will be much easier to spot if they’re on the surface rather than buried in the tonsil while you’re flossing.
#4 Ear pain:
Your ear and tonsils share certain nerve pathways. If the tonsil stones happen to form in or near one of these nerves, you will most likely experience ear pain because of the pressure applied to the nerve by the stone.
#5 Sore throat and coughing:
Sore throats are very common with tonsil stones, although they can also be a symptom of inflammation of the tonsils (tonsillitis). This can also be coupled with a persistent cough if the tonsil stones keep irritating your throat.
Ways to Getting Rid of Tonsil Stones?
In certain cases, tonsil stones can dislodge themselves from the crevices and go away on their own. On the other hand, in most cases, they aren’t too harmful and can go away with certain at-home treatments. However, if those treatments aren’t successful or possible in your case, then you will need to see a specialist to figure out the best course of action for your stones removal.
At- home tonsil stone removal treatments
At- home tonsil removal treatments are only possible if the tonsil stone isn’t buried too deep into your tonsils and is visible.
Gargling is supposed to gently dislodge your stone from its place and ease your sore throat. You can do this in two ways. You can either do warm water gargling with salt. For this, you will need about half a teaspoon of salt in warm water. Gargle using this mixture for about 10-15 seconds a day and it should help loosen your tonsil stones if they are small.
On the other hand, you can also use apple cider vinegar water. Mix a cup of apple cider vinegar with a cup of water to dilute it and use it to gargle about 3 times a day. Make sure that you’re not going overboard with this method because apple cider vinegar is strong and might cause tooth decay or digestive problems with excessive use.
- Using a cotton swab or toothbrush:
After you’ve loosened up your tonsil stones a little, you can use a cotton swab or the back of your toothbrush to fully dislodge it from its place. Do not use sharp objects such as a toothpick because that might cause bleeding, which could lead to infection.
All you have to do is position your cotton swab (or toothbrush) behind the stone. Then gently apply pressure on the surrounding tissue to push the stone forward towards your mouth rather than down your throat. With a little gentle nudging, it should pop right out! But beware; it’ll most likely come bearing a foul smell!
- Essential oils and mouthwash:
You can make use of products such as non- alcoholic mouthwashes or diluted essential oils to remove and prevent the formation of tonsil stones. Certain essential oils such as lemongrass or thieves oil can be diluted with carrier oils, and used by brushing with your toothbrush. This works because these oils have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties which will reduce the bacteria in your mouth, preventing stone formation.
On the other hand, you can also use non- alcoholic mouthwash daily to reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth. Plus the intense swishing motions will help loosen up the tonsil stone.
Adding foods with strong antibacterial properties such as onions, carrots, apples, yogurt, or ginger to your diet can help fight the bacteria in your tonsil stones and mouth.
Medical Procedures to get rid of Tonsil Stones:
There are certain times where you need to take that stone to a professional and have them remove it for you. This happens if your tonsil stones end up being too big for you to remove by yourself if it hurts to touch them, if you have a foul breath but can’t spot the stones if only a portion of the tonsil stone is removed by you if your tonsils are inflamed and swollen or it hurts or bleeds after removing them yourself.
However, along with the tonsil stone removal, certain procedures can be done to reduce the formation of tonsil stones in the future.
Cryptanalysis is a process in which laser or radiofrequency is used to reduce the number of crevices in your tonsils. This will prevent bacteria and other debris from settling in there in the first place, preventing the formation of stones. This procedure can be done under local anesthesia and the patient can usually return to a regular diet within a week.
Tonsillectomy is the permanent removal of tonsils from your throat. This procedure is only done when your tonsils are highly prone to infection, tonsil stones, and inflammation, hence causing you severe discomfort. Since it is a procedure that carries a lot of risks, it’s usually done as a last resort.
The risks of this procedure include bleeding during and after the surgery, infection, swelling of the tongue, and roof of your mouth which can result in breathing problems, etc. Without tonsils, your body loses a line of defense as well. Keep in mind that even with this surgery, under rare circumstances, there are chances of your tonsils growing back.
Does tonsil Stones go on their own?
This is most likely possible if your tonsil stones are small, and lesser in number. However, instead of doing nothing and waiting for them to go away on their own, we recommend implementing one of the home remedies mentioned above. If inflammation or bleeding occurs, consult a doctor immediately. However, make sure you are getting them out one way or another, otherwise, they will continue to grow into larger ones that can be more harmful to your health, and not to mention painful!
Is there a way to prevent tonsil stones from forming in the first place?
While you can’t guarantee that tonsil stones won’t ever be formed, you can try and practice good dental hygiene to reduce their chances. This includes the regular use of mouthwash to reduce the bacteria and food particles left behind in your mouth. If tonsil stones are a very common occurrence for you, we recommend consulting with your doctor about trying out one of the medical procedures mentioned above for a permanent solution.
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