When you hear the word stones in reference to a health issue, your mind probably goes straight to kidney stones. However, another type of stone that people have often never heard of until their dentist explains the condition is tonsil stones. Some people are more susceptible to getting recurring tonsil stones than others, and they most commonly affect those who have chronic inflammation in their tonsils.
Learn more about why you may be experiencing tonsil stones and what you can do to prevent them from becoming a reoccurring issue.
Common Causes of Tonsil Stones
Your tonsils are filled with nooks and crannies where bacteria can become trapped. As a result, the bacteria and debris combine to create a white pus formation in the pockets, and tonsil stones form when the trapped debris hardens.
The most common causes of tonsil stones include:
- Bacterial infections
- Viral infections
- Streptococcus bacteria
- Influenza virus
- Herpes simplex virus
- Parainfluenza virus
Symptoms of Tonsillitis
While the main symptom of tonsillitis is inflammation and swelling of the tonsils, there are a few other symptoms to watch for if you think you are experiencing tonsil stones, including:
- Persistent bad breath
- A frequent sore throat
- Trouble swallowing
- Earaches and ear pain
- Ongoing cough
- Swollen tonsils
- White or yellow debris on the tonsils
Preventing Tonsil Stones From Forming
Tonsil stones are most commonly found in those who experience chronic tonsillitis. The most effective way to prevent both tonsil stones and tonsillitis is to have your tonsils surgically removed. A tonsillectomy removes the tissues of the tonsils entirely, and in trade, eliminates all possibilities of further health issues with your tonsils.
Undergoing a tonsillectomy typically leaves patients with difficulty swallowing and a sore throat for a few days to a week after the procedure. Once the patient is healed, they will no longer experience pain and discomfort from tonsil infections.
Home Remedies and Treatments
If you have tonsil stones, they may reoccur regularly if you choose not to have your tonsils surgically removed. While there are a few preventative steps you can take to keep them from returning, surgical intervention will likely be necessary at some point in the future.
Home remedies and treatments include:
Improving your oral hygiene habits.
Practice good oral hygiene at home, including cleaning the bacteria off the back of your tongue with a toothbrush when you brush your teeth.
Eliminate smoking or using other tobacco products that could be creating the bacteria in your throat that is causing you to have tonsil stones.
Gargling with saltwater.
Gargle vigorously with a saltwater rinse to ease throat discomfort and help dislodge stuck tonsil stones. Try dissolving ½ teaspoon of table salt in a cup with 8oz of warm water and gargle.
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water to keep tonsil stones from forming. Water can also increase natural saliva production and help to change the chemistry in your mouth.
Energetic coughing can help to loosen stones. Try coughing after first gargling saltwater when the stones have been loosened with liquid.
Antibiotics can help lower the bacteria count that plays a crucial role in the development and growth of future tonsil stones. Antibiotics should not be used as a long-term solution because they will not treat the underlying cause of the stones.
When To Worry About Tonsil Stones
Sure, they may be uncomfortable and annoying, but how can you tell if your tonsil stones should receive professional attention? It comes down to the size and location of the stone, as well as your discomfort level.
When in doubt, check-in with your dentist and discuss whether you should consider having your tonsils removed. If you experience chronic tonsil infections and tonsil stones, a tonsillectomy could be the answer to your recurring pains.