What is a tonsil stone, and what does it have to do with halitosis? While you may not be familiar with the term "tonsillolith" or what it represents - a small accumulation of smelly gunk on your tonsils - you're probably quite aware of the halitosis they cause, even if you've never connected the two things in your mind before.
At least 90 percent of all bad breath originates in the mouth, as most oral health experts will tell you. When it comes to the creation of odor molecules, the bacteria that reside on your tongue, palate, teeth and gums do most of the legwork.
Just what are they doing? The microbes that are swarming in your mouth tend to spend their time doing one activity: eating. They eat food particles, oils, proteins, dead cells, even the enamel on your teeth, and then they excrete bad smells as a product of their digestion.
As long as you use a specialty breath freshening toothpaste or tongue scraper, you can rest assured that your breath will stay fresh. However, what is a person to do about tonsil stones?
These little, white, round lumps, also called tonsilloliths, can be found lodged in the folds of your tonsils. Unlike the other causes of bad breath, tonsil stones are not so easy to get rid of. After all, no toothbrush or tongue scraper can reach your tonsils, nor should they, since dentists never recommend poking the back of your throat with either instrument.
Alcohol-based mouthwashes would seemingly do the trick, but these rinses tend to make the problem worse, rather than better.
After all, a tonsil stone is a living thing, a coral-like accumulation of bacteria on top of dead cells. Killing these microbes with alcohol does not necessarily dislodge the stone. Furthermore, alcohol can dry out the throat, leaving your tonsils ripe for recolonization by any remaining microorganisms.
Numerous studies point to tonsil stones as a potent cause of halitosis. A report published in the British Dental Journal estimated that tonsilloliths increase the level of smelly oral compounds 10-fold.
Another paper appearing in the same journal noted that any time you have bad breath, tonsil stones may be to blame, especially since they are typically quite difficult to see or feel.
By using a specialty breath freshening rinse, you may be able to gargle away these stones and to neutralize both bad breath-causing bacteria and the odors they create.