The occurrence of tonsil stones is quite common but do you know what a tonsil stone is and how it is formed? To put it in brief, tonsil stones are a build-up of debris that get stuck in the tonsils and become hard. These tonsil stones are normally harmless, but can cause great pain or discomfort. They can even cause bad breath.
When left unattended, tonsil stones can continue to grow larger and become a breeding ground for bacterial growth.
They are not dangerous but just a sign of poor oral hygiene. Its foul and gross smell is attributed with sulphur content.
This article will give detailed information on how to prevent tonsil stones, what causes tonsil stones and natural remedies to remove the stones safely.
What Are Tonsil Stones?
First, it is important to know where your tonsils are located. Tonsils are located in the back of your throat. They are two masses of soft tissue present in the back of your throat which are a part of infection-fighting lymphatic system. These glands are known as tonsils.
Tonsils contain lymphocytes which are white blood cells which help to fight off body infection. They act as your body’s first line defense of immune system. The tonsils can in fact trap invading particles like bacteria to prevent it from passing through your throat.
Now the question remains- what are tonsil stones? These stones are also known as tonsilloliths, or tonsil calculi. They normally develop when debris and bacteria accumulate in the tonsils and harden. It forms into calcified lumps, causing tonsil stones.
This can happen when food, dead cells, mucus, debris, and bacteria get collected in the corners of your tonsils. When such materials get stuck onto your tonsils, your body’s defense mechanism goes to work to remove all foreign substances. When this process is over, they leave behind calcified substances on your tonsils.
If these calcified substances get dislodged in the tonsils, then they continue to grow and form into tonsil stones. These tonsil stones are hard, and either white or yellow. They can be visible to the naked eye, too. It becomes a feeding ground for bacterial growth, and creates an unpleasant scent.
These tonsil stones are mostly small in size, but there are few cases where tonsil stones were detected an inch wide. Hence, it can differ from case-to-case.
Causes of tonsil stones:
Your tonsils are composed of crevices, tunnels, and pits known as tonsil crypts. There are several types of debris such as dead cells, saliva, mucus, and food which gets trapped and build up. This can further lead to bacterial and fungal infection and create a foul odor. With time passage, such debris harden into tonsil stone.
There are few people that might have only one tonsil stone, while others will have smaller formation of tonsil stones. There are few potential causes of tonsil stones. A few of these causes are listed below:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Large tonsils
- Chronic sinus issues
- Chronic tonsillitis (inflamed tonsils)
So are you at risk of developing tonsil stones? They can happen to anyone, even with no underlying illness or health issue. But, tonsil stones are most likely to occur in people who have chronic tonsil inflammation and repeated cases of tonsillitis.
Symptoms of tonsil stones:
Tonsil stones might not always be visible, but they can cause noticeable symptoms. The symptoms of tonsil stones can include:
- Bad breath- this is one of the main indicators of tonsil stones. Bad breath or halitosis is also accompanied by tonsil infection.
- Sore throat- the presence of tonsil stones can cause pain and discomfort in your throat.
- Trouble swallowing- difficulty or pain while swallowing food or liquids depending on dislodged area of tonsil stones.
- Ear Pain- tonsil stones tend to develop anywhere in the tonsil and cause pain or discomfort in the ear, due to shared nerve channels.
- Ongoing cough-persists when you have tonsil stones.
- Swollen tonsils- when collected debris harden, it causes inflammation from infection. The tonsil stones cause tonsils to swell and become larger.
- White or yellow debris-some tonsil stones are dislodged in the back of a throat like a lump of solid white material. They are not visible and therefore may be detectable using non-invasive scanning techniques like CT scans or magnetic resonance imaging.
Natural Remedies For Tonsil Stones
There are several home remedies for tonsil stones to remove it safely from your mouth at home. Here are few suggestions:
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a natural remedy for treating several health problems, including tonsil stones. This solution can help to breakdown the stones naturally.
- For removing tonsil stones naturally, add one tsp of ACV to eight ounces of warm water.
- Gargle using the solution once or thrice a day.
Note: Gargling using apple cider solution can help to remove the stones from its lodged position.
Garlic is a natural and effective remedy for killing bacteria underlying tonsil stones. Chewing on raw garlic can discourage bacterial growth and decrease unwanted symptoms like bad breath. You can consume a garlic clove daily to kill foul odor producing bacteria from tonsil stones.
- Slice or crush raw garlic
- Leave it on your mouth for 10 minutes before consuming
Note: Leaving the raw garlic in your mouth can increase its allicin content. Allicin is one of the effective components present in garlic that contains antimicrobial abilities.
3. Cotton Swab
Cotton swab is a simple and inexpensive tonsil stones removal method. You just need to be careful while using it. Here are safe ways to use it:
- Wet the cotton swab to loosen tonsil stones by lightly pressing over a tissue.
- Position the cotton swab behind the stones to make sure the stone comes off from the front of your mouth rather than into the throat.
- Once the tonsil stones come off, spit it out.
- Gargle using salt water to get rid of remaining stones.
Note: Most tonsil stones are dislodged rather firmly and are not removable. However do not push the stones too much. Trying forced methods can only irritate your delicate tonsil issues.
If you want to remove tonsil stones naturally, then you should be patient. This is especially true when tonsil stones are not symptomatic. You will discover you have tonsil stones when you cough one up. Energetic cough can help to loosen the stones.
- If you cough out a tonsil stone, then spit it out.
- Gargle mouth.
- Cleanse your mouth to remove residual bacteria.
Note: If you have a tonsil stone, then coughing up can help loosen up stuck tonsil stones.
5. Salt Water
Gargling daily using salt water is one of the natural ways to prevent tonsil stones. It is also one of the effective ways to ease throat pain and dislodge tonsil stones. The solution of salt water can help remove the odor that tonsil stones can cause.
- Dissolve ½ tsp salt in eight ounces of warm water.
- Gargle daily or few times daily.
Note: Gargling daily with salt water can allow detoxifying your mouth and remove any debris that can end up forming tonsil stones. Gargling can help to loosen up tonsil stones stuck in your tonsils.
6. Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is an effective oral detoxification method. Swish your mouth with oil options such as coconut oil, olive oil, and sesame oil. This method is an effective and natural method to prevent cavities and gum disease.
- Swish one tsp of oil in your mouth for 10-20 minutes.
- Spit it out.
Note: Swishing mouth with coconut oil daily can loosen out tonsil stones. Doing this can naturally remove bacteria from your mouth.
7. Maintain Oral Hygiene
You should consistently maintain a good oral hygiene in order to prevent tonsil stones. As tonsil stones are formed because of undigested food particles and debris, it is absolutely essential to keep your mouth thoroughly clean.
- Clean mouth by brushing and flossing daily after every meal.
Note: Make sure not to leave any food remnants in your mouth as it can decrease available material for tonsil stones formation.
Adding probiotics in food is essential for healthy living. It can also help to prevent bacteria coming from tonsil stones.
- Add food choices such as coconut kefir, kimchi, and goat’s milk yogurt
Note: You can also take probiotics in supplement form.
Antibiotics are helpful for managing tonsil stones. They can be used for lowering bacterial growth that plays an essential role for tonsil stones development.
- Consult a doctor before using the antibiotics.
Note: Antibiotics are not a long term solution. Your tonsil stones are more likely to return after you stop using antibiotics.
10. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated can allow you to prevent tonsil stones and remove it safely. A dry mouth can result in less saliva production and make it easier for bacteria to flourish in your mouth.
- Drink 8-10 glasses of water to stay hydrated.
Note: Drinking water not only encourages formation and enlargement of tonsil stones. It can also help to prevent infections by keeping bacterial growth in your mouth under control.
Other Medical Treatment
Tonsil stone treatment normally depends on symptoms of tonsil stones. If there are unwanted symptoms, you should seek medical treatment. Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics but its usage might cause side effects. You can have the stones removed surgically if tonsil stones are large in size and cause symptoms. Surgery is normally carried out using a numbing agent or general anesthesia.
Laser resurfacing is another option that most doctors use. A process known as cryptolysis requires reshaping the tonsils for reducing the number of crypts where tonsil stones can grow. But there are chances of tonsil stones growing again even after trying these methods of tonsil stones removal.
Even a permanent solution of preventing tonsil stones like tonsillectomy cannot remove tonsils completely. In addition, tonsillectomy is normally recommended only for chronic and severe cases of tonsil stones after every treatment option has been tried without any success.
Tonsillectomy is quite safe. However it might cause throat pain post surgery for few days. It can lead to few side effects such as bleeding, swelling, infection, and breathing problems.
When To Seek a Doctor
Tonsil stones normally do not lead to any other health complication. However, they tend to enlarge causing your tonsils to swell in the process. You should watch out for these symptoms and seek medical attention for the same:
- Red, swollen, and painful tonsils
- Experiencing pain after removing tonsil stones from home
- Experiencing unwanted tonsil stone symptoms
- Cannot remove stones fully or at all
You can consult your doctor before taking any new supplements or medication for tonsil stones.
Prevention or Tips
You can prevent the formation of tonsil stones by maintain good oral hygiene. You should follow few tips daily to prevent the formation of tonsil stones. Here are few examples:
- Brush teeth after meals and first thing in the morning. Include cleaning the bacteria off the back of your tongue when you are brushing
- Floss teeth daily by cleansing out bacteria
- Gargle daily using commercial mouthwash or use a homemade solution of hydrogen peroxide and water
- Avoid using alcohol based mouthwash
- Prevent smoking
- Gargle with salt water
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
Tonsil stones are normally small and have a foul smell, but they aren’t concerning. However, that does not mean you allow it to heal in its own course of time. Instead, you can try several natural remedies to prevent and treat tonsil stones. These methods are simple to try at home, inexpensive, and highly effective. But, you should not attempt to physically remove tonsil stones because they are very sensitive.
Tonsil stones are a common health problem. If you are suffering from tonsil stones, then you should try the natural remedies mentioned above. We hope these methods works effectively for you.
You can also try oil pulling and salt water gargling daily to prevent tonsil stones from forming.
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