What are tonsil stones? Tonsil stones or Tonsilloliths are chunks food particles that accumulates on the back end of the mouth, specifically on the tonsils. Apart from causing bad breath, tonsil stones can also cause discomfort on the throat of the patient. As a matter fact, around 30,000 Americans are currently living with this condition.
Tonsil stones’ frequently asked questions:
Question 1: What exactly are tonsil stones?
Tonsil stones are chunks of debris which form on the crevices or crypts surrounding the tonsils. The basic makeup of tonsil stones includes calcium and magnesium salt, ammonium and hydroxyapatite and other substances. The medical term for tonsil stones is“Tonsilloliths,” and is typically made up of food particles and residues, leukocytes or dead white blood cells and bacteria which had entered the mouth as well as excess saliva stemming from an overactive salivary gland.
The growth of bacteria, fungus and enzimes found in saliva secretions will result in the trapping of debris in the tonsils, thereby creating and forming tonsil stones.
Question 2: What do tonsil stones look like?
Tonsil stones are yellowish-white objects, similar to sesame seed in size. They generally emits foul smelling and pungent odor associated with halitosis or bad breath. These are due to the bacteria along with other substances that are trapped in the throat. They are often found lodged between the wisdom teeth and the jaw.
Question 3: Health risks and symptoms?
Tonsil stones most prominent ‘feature’ apart from halitosis is the discomfort they cause on the throat. While certainly not life-threatening, the discomfort they cause may somewhat be a hindrance to your daily activities. Generally, the forming of these tonsil stones are more frequent in adults then in children. Non-specific symptoms like chronic coughing, sore throat and earaches are prevalent in adults with tonsil stones. While in children, tonsil stones are frequently accompanied by bad breath, swallowing pain and earache.
Question 4: What causes tonsil stones?
There are several causes of tonsil stones, the primary cause being a poor dental and mouth health/hygiene. Essentially, tonsil stones are made up of decomposing food residues which promotes growth of bacteria on the tonsils.
Symptoms and Causes of Tonsil Stones
Previously, surgically removing tonsil stones was considered to be the best approach in treating tonsil stones even with its inherent risks. Today, surgical removal of tonsil stones is not as popular is it used to be, due to the fact that surgery does not prevent tonsil stones from recurring.
Unless, we’re talking about removing the tonsils altogether, which is not something that I recommend, there’s really no benefit in removing tonsil stones if you continue to neglect the overall hygiene of your throat and mouth. The stones would just reappear.
Tonsils generally provide a service to our health as they trap bacteria and other harmful substances from entering our digestion system and prevent infection. At times, however, they could turn out to be more of a hindrance than help. If the tonsils swell to a point where they obstruct the respiratory functions and preventing oxygen from entering the respiratory tract, it can cause difficulties in breathing and swallowing food.
Symptoms of tonsil stones are generally as follows:
- Pain in the throat and esophagus when eating
- Difficulties in swallowing
- Chills accompanied by fever
- Swelling on the lymph nodes on the jaw and neck area
- Loss of voice or nasal voice
The cause of tonsil stones are generally bacteria and virus which entered the body through the mouth and nasal cavity. Tonsils have a role in the overall performance of the body’s immune system by filtering viruses and bacteria that would otherwise cause infections. Basically, they aid the white blood cells (leukocytes) in warding off infections. So, surgically removing tonsils are not recommended.
Among the many bacteria and viruses that can cause tonsillitis are the Epstein-Barr Virus(which is responsible for Mononucleosis) and the Streptococcus Pyogenes bacteria, responsible for laryngitis.
Tonsils are lymph nodes located at the back end or the top of the throat which helps filters bacteria and other microorganisms that help to ward off infections. If left untreated, the inflamed tonsils would eventually swell up and form tonsil stones.
Other possible causes of tonsil stones apart from virus or bacteria:
- Food - Foods that are high in preservatives, artificial sweeteners and flavoring as well as chemical based food coloring are the most prominent cause of tonsil inflammation. Foods like ice cream, candy, deep fried and heavily salted snacks.
- Vitamin C deficiency - Vitamin C is vital to the body. The minimum intake of vitamin C per day is 500 mg, complemented by other vitamins and nutrients.
- Spicy and chilly food. You may want to limit the intake of spicy and chilly foods.
- Plain old water. Water deficiency is also a factor. The body needs a minimum intake of 8 to 10 glass of water per day, or equivalent to 1.5 – 2 liters of water.
- Lack of general hygiene. You need to take hand washing seriously, it’s imperative for you to wash your hands prior to eating to minimize the risk of tonsil stones.
Question 5: How to treat tonsil stones.
There are several ways to get rid of tonsil stones, among which are:
- Black peppermint extract. It does more than just eliminating bad breath, black peppermint also has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties which is great for preventing tonsil stones. By dipping a cotton ball to a black peppermint oil, you can use it to swipe your tonsils. This method is effective in dispersing the accumulated bacteria and eroding tonsil stones.
- Water, salt and cotton balls. The combination of these three components can be used to treat throat pains.
- Eating bread mixed with butter and paprika. This method will likely cause you pain upon swallowing, but it will dislodge all the tonsil stones in the process.
The following are some available options to treat tonsil stones.
A tongue scraper may be used to clean particles and bacteria present in the mouth and tongue. It’s one of the most effective method to clean and prevent future recurrence of tonsil stones.
Brushing regularly can reduce bad breath, but you can also use a pair of tweezers to remove tonsil stones. But some may find this method to be ineffective due to their excessive gagging reflexes
Apart from the aforementioned methods, tonsil stones may be also be removed surgically.
|Surgerical tonsil stones|
The above pictures shows one of the surgical tools used to remove tonsil stones. Tonsillectomy is the medical procedure of removing tonsil stones.
Long term treatment can be done by way of laser treatment. This carbon dioxide laser procedure can evaporate the surface of the tonsils.
So there’s really no need to concern yourself too much if you’re currently living with tonsil stones. This condition is very much manageable and reversible. Although it is true that some complications may arise, generally speaking however, removing tonsil stones and preventing them from coming back is very much doable.
Disclaimer: Any health-related information and images provided in this article are not meant to replace the advice of your doctor and other medical professionals. The information is intended for general use, and not intended to diagnose, treat or prevent any disease/condition. Please discuss any health problem or concern you may have with a qualified medical and health care provider.
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