tonsil stones

About Tonsil Stones and Tonsilloliths

Tonsil stones, also called tonsilloliths (a Greek word that translates to “tonsil stones”), are a prodigious source of bad breath and chronic halitosis . Made of white or yellow-white calcium salts, tonsil stones lodge in crevasses in the tonsils. These so-called tonsil crypts also trap food and mucous form post-nasal drip, making them a perfect breeding ground for anaerobic bacteria that cause severe halitosis. Some researchers have suggested these bacteria also play a direct role in the formation of tonsil stones. This video on YouTube takes a closer look at how bacteria may cause tonsil stones to form.

No one knows for sure how many people suffer from tonsil stones, but it’s safe to say more people than ever are afflicted by this common malady. Once a common childhood operation, especially during the 1950s to 1970s, tonsillectomies in the United States are down. About 600,000 tonsillectomies are performed annually, down from several million per year in the operation’s heyday.

As more people have kept their tonsils, the number of those who have tonsil stones has risen dramatically. More about tonsils stones at Wikipedia.

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Tonsil Stones – Ways To Remove Them

Treating tonsil stones is essentially a two-step process. In the first step, the tonsil stones are removed from the tonsil crypts, the pocket-like areas in the tonsils where bacteria, food particles and post-nasal drip collect and ultimately lead to the formation of stones.

Besides bad breath, the sensation of having a foreign body stuck in the back of the throat is for many people one of the most maddening symptoms of tonsil stones. Once the stones are removed, there are effective therapies to prevent their return. But where does one start?

Coughing or massaging the throat area under the lower jaw and near the back of the throat can frequently dislodge tonsil stones. If your tonsil crypts are too deep for this method to work, you may need to try dislodging the stones using your finger (wash your hands thoroughly), a toothbrush or cotton swab. These can be used to massage the tonsils and push the stone out of the crypt.

If you have a particularly strong gag reflex, inserting a toothbrush or swab so far back in the mouth may be uncomfortable. An option in this case is to use an oral irrigator. An oral irrigator shoots a thin, pulsed stream of water that can be used to massage gums, clean between the teeth (an alternative to flossing), or to irrigate the tonsil crypts and dislodge tonsil stones.

Oral irrigators can eject a stream of water that is under considerable pressure, so be sure to start on the lowest setting and work up from there as needed if you intend using the irrigator to clear your tonsil stones.

Oral irrigators can be purchased in drug stores or Big Box stores like Wal-Mart. Popular brands like Waterpik and QuickBreeze are also available from Amazon and other well-known online retailers.

If push comes to shove, you may find you’re unable to remove your existing tonsil stones without the help of a healthcare professional. In this case, consider a visit to your dentist or Ear, Nose and Throat specialist (ENT).