If you're experiencing bad breath, irritation, or can see a white-coloured dot at the back of your throat, you might have tonsil stones. It's rare to develop tonsil stones and even rarer to develop serious problems from them, so don’t worry. We're here to walk you through what exactly they are and what you need to know about them.
Trouble With Tonsil Stones And Bad Breath
First off, how do you find your tonsils? Just look into a mirror (or camera on your phone), open your mouth, and say "ah" like you're at the doctor's office. You should have a great view of the back of your throat, and two glands called the tonsils.
Surprisingly, the tonsils are part of your body's defence system. They act as ‘policemen’ and help to form antibodies to ‘germs’ that invade the nose, mouth and throat. The same layer of mucus that protects your mouth covers your tonsils to help them do their job.
Around the tonsils are pits and crypts (small crevices) that sometimes get clogged with bacteria, food or other material. If this material gets stuck and hardens or calcifies, it can turn into a tonsil stone.
Some people are more likely to develop tonsil stones than others, especially those whose tonsils are inflamed.
Bad breath, also called halitosis, is the most common complaint of those with tonsil stones.
Tonsil stones smell bad for some, but others don't cause any symptoms. In most cases, they aren't of concern to your health. Some people may never get a tonsil stone, while others may get several a week without issue.
Remember that just because you have bad breath doesn't mean you have tonsil stones. There are many causes of bad breath, and tonsil stones are among the less likely reasons. So don't jump to the conclusion that you have tonsil stones just because you've been told your breath smells.
Tonsil stones, also called tonsilloliths, can lead to a sore throat, swelling, or even difficulty swallowing.
The stones vary in size, from barely noticeable to several centimetres large. The smaller they are, the less likely they are to cause problems. Doctors even removed one that was 3.1 x 2.3 cm large from a 45-year-old man. It's highly unlikely that yours are anywhere close to as large, so don't worry!
If you're experiencing any severe symptoms, be sure to check in with a doctor.
We know that tonsil stones can cause stress, but remember, they don't require treatment in most cases. If you're still worried, we've got your back with some tips for treatment and prevention.
How to help get rid of tonsil stones:
- Warm salt-water can free tonsil stones and help with discomfort
- Use mouthwash to help manage bad breath
- In some cases, doctors recommend surgical removal
- Most cases don't require you do anything at all
How to prevent tonsil stones:
- Brush your teeth twice daily and floss once to minimise bacteria
- Avoid smoking and other tobacco products
- Alcohol is another factor that dries the mouth. So, stop your alcohol consumption. Be wary of hidden alcohol in medicines and mouthwashes, which can be as high as 26 per cent. As an alternative, look for alcohol-free mouth rinse.
If your tonsil stones are causing extreme discomfort, difficulty breathing or swallowing, or any other symptoms, be sure to talk to a doctor.
If you have tonsil stones, take heart in the fact that they often require no treatment. You can minimise your chances of getting tonsil stones with easy steps like practicing proper dental hygiene, gargling with a salt-water rinse, and avoiding tobacco products. Luckily, these tips also help with any bad breath you might be experiencing.