Healthy Living

What Are Tonsil Stones?

What Are Tonsil Stones?

Key Takeaways

  • Tonsil stones are more common among teenagers than children and adults.
  • Tonsil stones can cause bad breath because of bacteria.
  • Practicing good oral hygiene may help prevent tonsil stones.

If you are someone who is suffering from bad breath or feel a sharp pain in your throat when you swallow something, then there is a good possibility that you are having tonsil stones. If you are really worried about it, there is nothing to be anxious about as there are various treatments available to effectively treat your condition. In fact, a good percentage of the population has untreated tonsil stones and some simply do not know about it. If you want to know more about tonsil stones, then you have come to the right place. This article will take a look at what tonsil stones are and provide some relevant details about them.

What is a tonsil stone?

A tonsil stone is also known by its medical term, "tonsilloliths". They are small-sized lumps of calcified material, which are located in the tonsillar crypts. These tonsil stones are comprised of lymphocytes. Tonsillar crypts are the openings of the tonsils. Tonsil stones usually appear in the palatine tonsils. However, they also tend to appear in the lingual tonsils. These extended stones may feel like foreign objects that are attached to the crypts. Although tonsil stones can cause quite a hassle, they are not harmful at all. However, they can cause bad breath or “halitosis” that most people suffer from. If you are wondering how a tonsil stone looks like, you can search for tonsil stone pictures on Google, and with the help of those images, you will be able to see how they look like inside the mouth.

What causes tonsil stones?

You might be wondering how tonsil stones are formed in the first place. Well, these stones are made when the debris trapped in the tonsils start to calcify. The debris can be bacteria, mucus, and dead cells that are trapped in the nooks and crannies of the tonsil. The trapped debris turns into white in color. If the debris turns out to be big in size, it can extend out as well.

Tonsil stones can produce too little symptoms. However, it is more commonly observed among teenagers than in children and adults. Some of the common symptoms of tonsil stones are:

  • Bad breath
  • Sore throat
  • Pain in the ears
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Yellow or white hue debris accumulated in the tonsil
  • Difficulty in swallowing food

While these are some of the most common symptoms, there are some tonsils stones that will not show any symptoms at all. However, small-sized tonsils are more common than large-sized ones. Persistent coughing can also lead to coughing up tonsil stones.

Tonsil stones can cause bad breath because of the presence of anaerobic bacteria, which greatly thrive in conditions with low oxygen levels. An example would be the area near the tonsil crevice. Anaerobic bacteria excrete a good amount of bad-smelling substances. This condition can also become quite bad for a person who is suffering from dry mouth. Human saliva consists of antibacterial qualities and oxygen. However, when there is a lack of saliva production, harmful bacteria can thrive inside the mouth.

How to prevent tonsil stones?

There are various ways to prevent tonsil stones from developing and some of these preventive measures include:

1) Practicing good oral hygiene 

The bacteria inside the mouth can help in the formation of tonsil stones by accumulating the food particles and other types of substances in the mouth. Regularly brushing your teeth can help get rid of the food particles left in your mouth after a meal. 

2) Gargle with salt water 

One of the easiest ways to prevent the formation of tonsil stones in your mouth is by gargling salt water. It also prevents any type of bad odor caused by the tonsil stones. Salt water will prevent the accumulation of tonsil stones in your mouth as it cleans away the debris that may have accumulated. It is also a great remedy for a sore throat.

3) Always stay hydrated

Drink the required amount of water every day. Water can help flush the debris that gets accumulated in the tonsils and creates an ideal environment that can eliminate harmful bacteria. It also helps get rid of other substances in the oral cavity that might lead to another health problem.

4) Eating raw onions and cloves of garlic 

Onions and garlic are two ingredients that possess antibacterial properties. Since tonsil stones are caused by a bacterial infection, garlic and onion may help prevent their accumulation. They can also help prevent different types of oral infections and maintain oral health.

5) Unsweetened yogurt

Yogurt is also great in removing tonsil stones as it contains substances called probiotics, which help remove bad bacteria successfully.

6) Eating a balanced and healthy diet

To prevent the formation of tonsil stones, consume a diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals. Drinking fresh lime juice can also help remove tonsil stones.

7) Quit smoking

Frequent smoking can lead to a dry mouth and throat. For this reason, smoking can definitely trigger tonsil stone formation.

Treatment of tonsils

In case your tonsils get irritated and you feel discomforts on a daily basis, then it is time to visit a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment of your condition. 

The presence of tonsil stones in your mouth can also cause complications, especially if your tonsils are both infected or inflamed. This situation can happen if one tries to manually remove the tonsil stones at home using a cotton swab or a toothbrush. Some stones can also cause tonsil infections, which may require surgery for its removal. Some of the complications for the latter case may be excess bleeding or infections.

There are also various types of tonsil stone removal treatments available to treat your tonsils. They include:

1) Antibiotic treatment

For the treatment of short-term tonsil infections, antibiotics are usually prescribed to the patient. One of the most common antibiotics that are given for the treatment of tonsil stones is amoxicillin. This antibiotic helps in creating an environment that can prevent the multiplication of bad bacteria. It also helps inhibit bacteria in building their cell wall. Without their cell wall, they will not be able to survive, thrive, and spread.

2) Surgical procedure

Another type of tonsil stone treatment is tonsillectomy, which is the surgical removal of the tonsils. This procedure is usually done when the symptoms become unbearable and it becomes difficult for the patient to have the tonsil stone. Tonsillectomy can be done for patients who experience difficulties in swallowing food, enlarged tonsil stones, and chronic bad breath that does not go away.

Doctors can either perform a complete or partial tonsillectomy. In a complete tonsillectomy procedure, the tonsils are completely removed. However, in partial tonsillectomy, the doctor only removes a part of your tonsils. Partial tonsillectomy is less painful compared to complete tonsillectomy. Patients also tend to quickly recover after undergoing a partial tonsillectomy. In contrast, a complete tonsillectomy can take patients a longer time to recover, which is why this procedure is usually discouraged in older people. Children, on the other hand, will be able to fully recover within two weeks or so. The latter surgical procedure uses a procedure that is known as "coblation", which only takes about 15-20 minutes under local anesthesia.

Postsurgical complications

After a tonsillectomy, patients may experience complications such as earaches, headaches, fever, and a painful throat. Some may also get bad breath during the recovery process. However, patients are advised to chew gums to keep their jaws working and to prevent bad breath as well. Other symptoms may also arise after surgery and they include dehydration, constipation, bleeding, etc. If the patient experiences bleeding, he or she should immediately consult a doctor.

3) Cryptolysis

Another medical treatment for tonsil stones is cryptolysis. In this procedure, lasers are used for the removal of tonsil stones. Recovery from the procedure is much faster as it is less painful than other tonsillectomy procedures. Most patients generally recover within a week and resume their normal diet as well. However, since the tonsil tissues are not completely removed, there is still a chance of tonsil stone recurrence.

Are tonsil stones contagious?

Tonsil stones are formed deep in the mouth, and the chances of direct contact with the tonsil stones are very slim. However, activities such as deep kissing or sharing a toothbrush from a person who has tonsil stones can transfer the bacteria. For this reason, it is better to be cautious and avoid using the same utensils with the person who has tonsil stones to avoid the transmission of harmful bacteria.

Are tonsil stones blood-borne?

Bacteria can be transferred through various means and they can be acquired through the air, blood, or direct contact. Therefore, there is no such thing as blood-borne tonsil stones.

In conclusion, it can be said that tonsil stones are very common in the general population. Moreover, some of the most common oral problems such as bad breath can be easily caused by tonsil stones.

How to prevent tonsil stones

There are several ways of preventing the formation of tonsil stones as mentioned in this article. One way is to maintain a healthy oral hygiene. Although you can remove your tonsil stones at home, especially those that are extended and can be clearly seen inside the mouth, it is still better not to do it alone. Consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Manually removing your tonsil stones at home may damage to your tonsils, which can lead to an infection or another oral health problem.

Outlook

There are various medical treatments available and one of the most common treatments is tonsillectomy. Unless the tonsil tissues are completely removed, there is a chance for the tonsil stones to recur as soon as the condition inside your mouth becomes favorable for the bacteria to grow and multiply. A tonsillectomy can definitely treat your tonsil stone issue. However, surgical procedures are usually used as a last resort for those who are facing serious problems with their tonsil stones. Partial tonsillectomy is usually advised as the tonsil is a functioning part of the immune system. However, a number of patients also opt for a complete tonsillectomy if they persistently have tonsil stones. There is also another temporary solution, where the procedure is carried out using lasers, but will not totally remove the tonsil tissues. The patient can generally recover and can consume a normal diet within a week. Usually, older adults are not advised to go through a complete tonsillectomy because the recovery process can take a longer time. Children, on the other hand, can recover within two weeks after the surgical procedure. Since tonsillectomy patients may experience complications after surgery, they should be definitely informed before they opt for surgery.

The chances of spreading tonsil stones through direct contact are very minimal and it can only happen due to certain activities.

You should not worry at all since having tonsil stones is not lethal. It can only cause some discomforts to a certain extent, excluding some serious cases where the infection has spread, and the tonsil stones are enlarged. In any situation, before taking any type of medication for tonsil stones, you must first consult a doctor.