The main function of tonsils is to aid the immune system in the body. They achieve this by defending against viruses and bacteria that enter your body through the throat.
The condition of suffering from tonsil stones is medically referred to as tonsilloliths. It is a direct result of calcification, as the accumulation of calcium salts can gather in the pockets and crevices of tonsils.
What Are Tonsil Stones?
Tonsil stones (also called tonsilloliths) are a buildup of hardened or calcified material in the tonsils or in the crevices around the tonsils. The tonsilloliths come from bacteria or dead cells that have built up in pits or fissures around enlarged tonsils.
Tonsil stones primarily occur and can be found at the roof of the mouth or back of the throat. They are often white or the color of mucus.
What Causes Tonsil Stones?
Tonsil stones may be due to poor oral hygiene. If you do not brush your teeth properly, food particles will remain in your mouth, which allows bacteria to grow. When the tonsils get filled with mucus, dead skin cells, food, and bacteria, this is the perfect breeding ground for tonsil stones to fester.
If the growth increases significantly, this bacteria can reach the tonsil glands and lead to the formation of stones.
If your mouth remains dry, then you are prone to the formation of tonsil stones. This is because if not enough saliva is produced, your mouth will not remain clean and may once again give rise to bacteria...and eventually tonsil stones.
Tonsil stones are not contagious. However, the bacteria from tonsil stones may be spread to loved ones through saliva.
The Signs and Symptoms of Tonsil Stones
Chronic sufferers report that tonsil stones are uncomfortable. However, some don’t even realize they are tonsil stone sufferers.
The signs and symptoms that accompany tonsil stones include:
- Swollen tonsils
- Visible white film or stones on or around the tonsils
- Chronic and severe bad breath (halitosis)
- Nasal drainage
- Throat discomfort
- Trouble swallowing
- An affected voice
How to Prevent Tonsil Stones
Knowing how to prevent tonsil stones should be your first course of action since tonsil stones are usually left alone by health professionals unless they are severe. Most health professionals will recommend increased oral hygiene and healthy lifestyle choices to reduce the buildup accumulated in the back of the throat.
Those who neglect to scrape the back of their tongue are more susceptible to food particles not being fully digested and sticking to the walls of the tonsils. Regular teeth brushing is crucial and will help dislodge food bits from in between teeth and gums. Keeping the mouth free of gum disease by using 100% pure toothpaste daily and rinsing thoroughly (gargling) with 100% pure mouthwash can help.
Maintaining a healthy diet that is low in sugar and processed foods will help reduce the amount of live bacteria in your mouth. Increasing your water intake will also potentially help prevent those pesky stones. In addition, managing nasal-allergy symptoms that might cause mucus accumulation in the back of the throat will also help prevent tonsil stones.
How to Get Rid of Tonsil Stones
You should never want to leave calcified or large amounts of bacteria buildup in your body. These bacteria could cause problems or dislodge and travel to other areas in the body.
There are several home-based treatments, used alone or in conjunction with other treatment plans which your doctor recommends, that can help treat tonsil stones if your condition is not severe. Tonsil stones can fall off alone or they may be gently removed them with a smooth-ended device such as a cotton swab.
A common tonsil stone remedy involves homemade rinses that can help the bacteria dislodge and fall off. Gargling salt water is another suggestion that helps aid tonsil stones by eliminating the bacteria in the back of the throat.
When battling tonsil stones, you should take extra health precautions. Get ample rest, do not participate in anything that may cause fatigue, and try to sleep for more than eight hours. Avoid speaking too much, since tonsil stones can affect your voice in some cases. Eat food that can help soothe your sore throat and drink hot liquids such as coffee or hot cocoa. Use a humidifier so that your room does not become too dry. This can alleviate sore throat and decrease your pain. Stay away from smoke, dust, and other things that can irritate your throat.
You can also take medicines which can relieve you of the pain. If you are suffering from fever in addition to the tonsil stones, treatment with drugs is an option. Your doctor may prescribe certain medications including antibiotics, particularly if a bacterial infection is the cause of your disease. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to reduce the chance of subsequent infections associated with tonsil stones.
If the stones are severe enough to cause discomfort and pain, the last treatment option may be surgical extraction (usually referred to as a tonsillectomy). Your doctor will consider it only when other treatment plans fail to produce effective results or if your stone formation is frequent.
A tonsillectomy is conducted after you have been given a dose of anesthesia. A tube is passed through the nose into the cavity so that a person can easily breathe during the process. Surgery is performed through the mouth, which is kept open with a tool. A laser or another heated instrument is guided to where the tonsil stones are located, which are then cut away. The entire process is finished in just about an hour. You can be allowed to go home on the same day, but you won’t be fully recovered for about 14 days.
The removal of tonsils does not have a significant effect on the immune system and a person’s body is still capable of defending from foreign bodies. Peculiarly enough, even after tonsils are removed, tonsil stones may still occur. This makes maintaining good oral hygiene as important as ever. See our list of oral health products designed specifically to help you manage and improve your oral health, and get started on the road to good oral hygiene.