Here at TheraBreath, our mission is to educate the public about the many causes of halitosis and the specialty breath fresheners that can eliminate it. In part, this means noticing when researchers add to the collective knowledge about what causes bad breath. Recently, a halitosis expert did just that, explaining that tonsil stones may contain spent white blood cells, in addition to their many layers of bacteria and food particles.
Dentist Sean Lee, in a book called Breath: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment of Oral Odor, explained up front that the understanding of halitosis is constantly being updated.
"Medicine and dentistry are ever-changing fields," Lee wrote in the initial disclaimer. "As new diseases and environmental changes occur, broadening knowledge...and relevant information are needed."
As proof of this notion, he included a relatively new idea in the book - namely, that tonsil stones are partially built from used-up white blood cells.
Lee explained that the tonsils are repositories for the invading bacteria that have been filtered through the nose. Once caught in the tonsils, these pathogens are attacked by white blood cells, or lymphocytes, which die along with the bacteria themselves.
The authors added that white blood cells don't always stay inside the tonsils. Evidently, they can migrate outside the walls of the tissue itself and into the small folds, or "crypts", where some pathogens hide. It is here that tonsil stones originate.
Once they have formed their initial deposit, these stones - also called tonsilloliths - begin to grow more rapidly, as food particles stick in the crypts and bacteria feast on these little bits. Over time, tonsil stones can get quite large, giving off a powerful odor that rivals almost any other form of bad breath.
To eliminate these little objects, it's best to gargle periodically with a specialty breath freshening rinse, or - if you've just run out - hydrogen peroxide or salt water.