Chances are you’ve heard of tonsillitis, but have you heard of tonsil stones? If you’re like most people, probably not. It could be because not many people are interested in talking about them. These relatively common occurrences often go unnoticed or undiscussed, but could one or more be lurking in your throat?
What is a tonsil stone?
A tonsil stone, also known more officially as a tonsillolith, are usually small whiteish-colored accumulations that develop on the tonsils in the throat. They are caused when particles of food, bacteria, and even mucus become trapped in the crevices of the tonsils. Over time, this debris can build up and solidify into a tonsil stone.
These rather common formations can be caused by poor dental hygiene, chronic sinus problems, chronic tonsillitis and even naturally large tonsils.
In general, tonsil stones cause few problems, which is why they often go unnoticed. Those occasional complications may include:
Swelling around the tonsils
The feeling of something at the top of your throat
Bad breath that gets worse
Pain when swallowing, eating, or drinking
In rare cases, tonsil stones become so large that they can make it difficult to swallow or even breath. They have also been known to cause an infection or abscess of the tonsil.
How to get rid of tonsil stones
If you notice that you have developed tonsil stones, whether it’s because you’ve noticed increasingly bad breath, can feel one at the top of your throat or have been diagnosed with one by your ENT, there are several ways that it can be removed.
Gargling: As you might with a sore throat, gargle with warm salt water (½ teaspoon dissolved in 8 ounces of water). This can ease the throat if it has become irritated and may help to remove the tonsil stone. Gargling with a diluted mix of water and apple cider vinegar has also been shown to be effective at helping to break down tonsil stones.
Antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral foods: Include plenty of foods such as yogurt, garlic and onions in your diet to help counteract and fight the buildup of bacteria in the tonsil stone. Carrots, which increase the production of saliva in the mouth when chewed, can also be a good choice to help fight tonsil stones.
Schedule an appointment with your ENT: Medical professionals can often quickly and easily remove tonsil stones while protecting the delicate tissue of the tonsils. In some cases, home remedies will prove ineffective and your ENT may have to do one of the following:
Laser tonsil cryptolysis – the crevices or crypts of the tonsil are removed to resolve tonsil stones and help prevent new ones from forming.
Coblation cryptolysis – similar to laser tonsil cryptolysis but using radio waves and a salt solution.
Tonsillectomy – if all other methods have been tried, this may be the last resort for more severe and chronic cases of tonsil stones.
While it may be tempting to try and remove tonsil stones manually at home, this can be dangerous. Not only can it damage the tonsils, but it can also lead to bleeding and infections.
How to prevent tonsil stones
If you’ve noticed a tonsil stone or just want to help avoid developing one, there are ways to help lower your risk including:
Good oral hygiene – brushing (including your full tongue) after meals and flossing daily
Gargling with salt water daily
Staying hydrated to help prevent the buildup of bacteria – most experts recommend drinking an average of half your body weight in ounces of water each day to do this.
If you believe you may have tonsil stones, call our office to schedule an appointment today. We can help diagnose and treat tonsil stones without the worry.