Guide to Tonsil Stones (Tonsilloliths)

If anyone talks about the place where stones can form in the human body, instantly, we come up with organs like gall bladder and kidneys. A lot of people might not know but tonsils are the other place where painful stones can develop in the case of some people. Tonsils stones are benign accumulation of debris and bacteria in the crypts of some people’s tonsils.

Guide to Tonsil Stones

What Are Tonsils?

Made of tissues, tonsils are gland-like structures that are present in the back of the throat, one in a pocket on every side. These tissues carry lymphocyte cells that prevent as well as fight infections in the body. It is said that tonsils have a role to play in immune system, working like nets to trap virus and bacteria that pass through the throat.

What are the Causes of Tonsil Stones?

Tonsils have crannies and nooks where materials like mucous, bacteria, dead cells, and other foreign objects get confined. This may lead to concentration of debris in white formations in the pockets. When these debris calcifies or hardens, it leads to the formation of tonsilloliths or tonsil stones. This generally happens in the case of people who have frequent attacks of tonsillitis or chronic inflammation in the tonsils. Occurrence of solidified and large tonsil stone is rare.

What Are the Symptoms of Tonsil Stones?

Small tonsil stone actually do not have any clear symptoms and some even large ones are diagnosed just like that through CT Scans or X-rays. However in the case of larger tonsil stones, following are the symptoms:

  • Bad breath

Bad breath or halitosis that comes with a tonsil infection is the first indicator of tonsilloliths. During a research the experts found out that 75 percent of the people with abnormal concentration of volatile sulfur compounds suffered from tonsil stones.

  • White debris

In some cases but not always, tonsil stones are noticeable in the back of the throat in the form of a piece of solid white material. Many times, they are concealed in the fold of the tonsils. In such cases, non-invasive scanning techniques like CT scans or magnetic resonance imaging come to rescue.

  • Sore throat

Tonsillitis and tonsil stones befall together and it is difficult to diagnose the cause of the throat pain. Most of the times, pain occurs at the place where these stones are present.

  • Difficulty in swallowing

As per the size and location of the tonsil stone, there may be difficulty or pain while swallowing foods and liquids.

  • Swelling of Tonsil

When the accumulated debris get hardened, they form tonsil stone, inflammation from infection  and the tonsil stone lead to swelling of the tonsils.

  • Pain in the ear

These stones can get formed anywhere in the tonsils. Due to shared nerve pathways, they can lead pain in the ear, even if the stone is not touching the ear.

How are Tonsil Stones Diagnosed?

The debris that form tonsil stones can come from several sources. Because of being organic in nature, these stones are difficult to detect. Due to their tiny size and the structure, tonsils might be visible when the mouth is opened. X-rays and CT scans can detect tonsil stones.

How Are Tonsil Stones Treated?

The size of the tonsil stone and its possibility to cause any harm decides the treatment for tonsil stones. Many times, the stones that show no symptoms might not even require any special treatment. Following the ways to treat tonsil stones:

  • Salt water gargles

One of the best methods to cure tonsil stones is gargling salt water. If you gargle regularly with salt water or non-alcoholic mouth wash, it will stop the collection of tonsil stones along with removing the bad smell. Also, if you have a sore throat, salty water is going to help you. It also removes any kind of food particles, mucus or any such stuff that gets collected on the tonsils.

  • Use of cotton swabs

Using cotton swabs can really help to remove stones from the tonsil walls. For using the cotton swabs, wet both it ends so that it becomes gentle. Stand in front of the mirror and locate the stones using a flashlight. Slowly loosen the stone and then gently remove them from the walls of the tonsils. After you have removed the stone, gargle with mouth wash or salt water to flush out the debris.

  • Drink water on regular intervals

This probably is the simplest and very effective cure for tonsil stones as by drinking water we keep our body hydrated, creating such an environment that does not lets the bacteria thrive. Also by drinking water, we clean out debris etc. along with the cavity. It doesn’t allows any materials to get accumulated on the tonsils that might lead to formation of stones.

  • Use a toothbrush

In the same manner as using a wet cotton swab, you can also use an electric brush or a normal toothbrush with soft bristles. Stand in front of a mirror, put a flashlight on the tonsil stone and try to loosen them. After removing them, use mouthwash to remove the remaining stones and particles.

  • Drinking lemon juice

Lemon juice is known to be rich in medicinal properties and vitamin C that is extremely useful in removal of tonsil stones. Take a glass of warm water and add at least 3 tablespoons of lemon juice in it. Drink it and gargle with it to remove the tonsil stones and cleanse the area. It also prevents future occurrence of such tonsils.

  • Eat raw onions and garlic cloves

Raw onions are known to have anti-bacterial properties that help in maintaining good oral health and checking oral infections. Consume at least 3 onions on daily basis to remove the stones and get riddance from of stone-causing bacteria as well as the foul smell.

Garlic also have anti-bacteria properties that remove bacteria from the mouth. As tonsil stones are a bacterial infection, garlic really helps. Just chew raw garlic cloves number of times a day.

  • Eating a proper diet

Eating a balanced diet does not only helps you in managing your weight but also treats as well as removes tonsil stones. Food rich in probiotics and vitamins helps you in getting rid of these stones. Diet with probiotics have friendly bacteria that fights the unfriendly bacteria that lead to tonsil stones.

A vegetarian diet also helps in removing tonsil stones. Mouth watery foods like tomatoes, spinach and carrots make it difficult for the bacteria to sustain. Try to reduce the intake dairy products as it increases calcium and mucus that lead to formation of stones.

  • Unsweetened yogurt

Tonsil stones can also be cured eating natural yogurt as it contains probiotic, a beneficial bacteria that helps in removing any harmful bacteria that form tonsils. It not only helps in preventing any future occurrence of tonsil stones but also cleanses any harmful bacteria from your body.

  • Maintain good oral hygiene

Not being able to maintain a good oral hygiene becomes the prime cause for the formation of such stones. When food particles and other such materials get accumulated in the mouth, they give birth to bacteria in mouth that leads to the formation of tonsil stones. It is advisable that you maintain a good oral health by brushing your teeth using medicated toothpaste, scrap your tongue, change your toothbrush from time to time, gargle mouth with salt water or mouth wash and so on.

Medical treatment of tonsil stones

If tonsil stones cause real discomfort and pain during food swallowing, medical treatments are recommended in such cases. One can pick from removing the tonsils, taking antibiotics or treating them. The doctors undertake a rapid strep test by swabbing on throat’s back using a cotton swab for determining the reason for the problem. Later, according to the result, he informs you about the several medical treatments available to do away with the tonsil stones.

  • Antibiotics

Eating antibiotics offer short-term relief from tonsil stones, as by building a cell wall they create an environment where bacteria cannot thrive. Amoxicillin is the most common antibiotic in this case. Nevertheless, relief in this case is short lived as they do not remove the bacteria from the tonsils. Antibiotics reduce the effect of bacteria but cannot stop their future occurrence as bacteria become immune to the antibiotics gradually. There can also be side effects like vomiting, diarrhea and fever.

  • Tonsillectomy

Tonsillectomy is known to be a surgical treatment to remove tonsil stones, which should be the last resort in adverse cases. Surgery is suggested to those with frequent Tonsilloliths, swollen tonsils, consistent bad breath and enlarged tonsil stones.

The doctor may chose partial tonsillectomy or complete removal of the tonsils. Suggested when tonsils are in even then in good shape, partial tonsillectomy is less painful and the recovery is quicker when compared to the complete surgery. As tonsils are an important part of the immune system and complete removal is not recommended.

If one undergoes complete tonsillectomy, the pain is severe and the recovery period is longer, thus it is not recommended for older people. On the other hand, children can completely recover within a span of around 2 weeks and adults may take a month or more. The procedure used in this case is coblation and takes around 15 – 20 minutes to get complete. This surgery performed under local anesthesia.

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Post- surgery difficulties

Fever, earache, painful throat and headaches are some of the problems that the patients undergo after the surgery. During the time of recovery, some people also suffer from bad breadth and in this case they can chew a gum so that the jaws also work properly. Constipation, dehydration and bleeding are other problems. In the case of excessive bleeding, visit a doctor.

  • Cryptolysis

Cryptolysis is another medical treatment in which a laser is used for removing tonsil stones. The pain is less and the recovery process is also shorter.

remove the tonsil stones. This method is less painful and the recovery process is shorter than the tonsillectomy. Patients undergoing this treatment can resume their diets and normal activities in a week. However, this treatment is a short-term treatment and the tonsil stones may appear in future since the process leaves the tonsil tissues behind. The laser treatment only removes the tonsil crypt from where the stones developed.

Can Tonsil Stones Be Prevented?

As told earlier, tonsil stones are common in the case of those people who suffer from chronic tonsillitis, the best way to prevent them is to opt for surgical removal of tonsils or tonsillectomy. As the tissues of the tonsils are removed, there is no possibility of the formation of tonsil stones.

Tips to reduce the formation of tonsil stones

  • Brush your teeth and clean tongue two times a day.
  • Rinse your mouth with a non-alcoholic mouthwash or salty water.
  • Drink water after having a meal so that food particles that remain in the throat may get washed down.
  • Use an oral irrigator to irrigate the tonsils once a week weekly so that bacteria and debris accumulation in tonsil crevices can be prevented.
  • Shun a diet high in dairy products as such items are rich in the protein on which anaerobic bacteria sustain.
  • Shun excessive consumption alcohol as it is a diuretic and leads to dry mouth.

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Also read:
Adult Tonsillectomy Recovery Tips

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