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Bad breath is among the most common complaints of adults and children. One estimate suggests that up to 30% of adults complain of having bad breath. Could tonsil stones be the culprit of bad breath and other oral health concerns? As you Mississauga family dentist, we believe that in order to answer that correctly, it is important to identify what tonsils and tonsil stones are and what causes them.
Small but mighty, our tonsils are an important part of our body’s immune system and can develop tonsil stones if you’re not careful. We have three different types of tonsils – the palatine tonsils, adenoids and lingual tonsils. However, our palatine tonsils are the only ones we can easily see through an open mouth. These soft, oval-shaped tissue masses are located in the back of the throat. They are made of similar tissue to our lymph nodes and are coated with pink mucosa. They contain white blood cells that defend against bacteria and viruses that enter through the mouth and nose and help keep foreign objects from reaching our lungs. Although many people have their tonsils removed without serious or adverse side effects, most doctors do not automatically recommend having them removed surgically, unless removing tonsil stones becomes a regular or difficult occurrence.
What are tonsil stones?
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, also called tonsilloliths. Some people are more susceptible to getting recurring tonsil stones than others, and they most commonly affect those with chronic inflammation in their tonsils. Symptoms of tonsil stones vary from person to person and can include sore throat, bad breath, and/or discomfort while swallowing. Some tonsil stones may also be asymptomatic.
Tonsil stones are made out of debris that’s often found in the mouth, such as bits of food, saliva and dead cells. This debris gets trapped in a person’s tonsil crypts – which are pits and crevices found on and in the tonsils. When the debris is trapped in there and not washed away, it can harden into a stone. Microorganisms, such as bacteria, also feed on the debris, which causes bad breath. Complications from tonsil stones are quite rare, but large chronic tonsil stones can lead to abscesses and may need surgery to correct.
Causes of Tonsil Stones
Many tonsil stones are a result of poor oral hygiene. Other things that can predispose a person to have tonsil stones are having larger than normal tonsil stones, tonsils that are continually inflamed (chronic tonsillitis), and chronic sinusitis. Debris in your tonsils crypts, whether it be particles from food from insufficient teeth cleaning or mucus from post nasal drip, can cause tonsil stones.
Tonsil Stones Symptoms
Frequently, people with tonsil stones don’t even realize they have them. That’s because the size and location of tonsil stones can affect the symptoms that they cause. The smaller the stone, the less like they are to cause any symptoms. Sometimes, tonsil stones can emit a foul odour. This is because they contain high amounts of sulphur. According to a study, 75% of people with uncommonly high quantities of sulphur in their mouths have tonsil stones. Tonsil stones raise your chances of bad breath by up to 10 times. In addition to chronic bad breath, common symptoms include sore white or yellow spots on tonsils, restricted throat, swollen tonsils, ear pain and/or difficulty swallowing.
Tonsil Stone Removal
Often, small stones go undetected and never require any action because they go away on their own. However, the larger the stones, the more likely a patient will have to deal with them. Luckily, in many cases, at-home solutions will do the trick to get rid of these stones. But if you are struggling to resolve your tonsilloliths, our expert team at Credit River Dental Centre can advise you on your best course of action at your next appointment. As your Mississauga family dentist, we have curated a list of three ways to address your tonsil stones at home. You may use a combination of these three options to get rid of the tonsil stones.
Gargling effectively can help resolve several problems and improve your oral health. To get rid of tonsil stones, there are a few different solutions you can use, but it’s also important to do it properly. First, take as much fluid in your mouth as you can without being uncomfortable. Next gargle the mixture around the back of your mouth and throat. Spit out the mixture in the sink and rinse again with pure water. The best fluids for getting rid of tonsil stones are: saltwater, apple cider vinegar diluted with water, or essential oils such as myrrh, thieves oil, and lemongrass.
Some people can manage to cough up the stones. If you cough enough that it reaches the tonsils, you can dislodge the tonsilloliths.
Certain foods have properties that make them effective against tonsil stones. Try increasing your intake of the following foods:
Preventative care can be an important part of your home remedy arsenal to fight against tonsil stone formation. If you are prone to getting tonsil stones, that means that bacteria and other matter are regularly getting caught in your tonsils. To combat this, we recommend improving your oral care routine. Remember to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes, brush your tongue and floss at least once a day. Consume a nutritious diet and drink plenty of water.
If you aren’t sure whether you’re suffering from tonsil stones or what to do with the ones you have, our friendly team will be happy to answer any of the questions you may have. Make sure to give us a call at (905) 278-4297 to book your next appointment at Credit River Dental Centre in Mississauga, Ontario.