What are tonsil stones?: A primer
SUMMARY: Just because you haven't heard of them doesn't mean you don't have them. Tonsil stones can make good breath turn bad virtually faster than you can say "tonsillolith" (another word for the halitosis-causing stones). But what are tonsil stones?
Posted: October 18, 2011
Just because you haven't heard of them doesn't mean you don't have them. Tonsil stones can make good breath turn bad virtually faster than you can say "tonsillolith" (another word for the halitosis-causing stones). But what are tonsil stones?
For the uninitiated, here is a short introduction to tonsilloliths, which may be lurking in your throat right now.
Tonsil stones are small, round, whitish or yellowish specks that make their home at the back of your mouth, usually on either side of your throat, nestled in your tonsils or adenoids.
What are tonsil stones doing back there? These "stones" are formed over time as food particles, dead cells, proteins and bacteria accumulate in the folds of your tonsils.
While they are relatively harmless to your general well-being, tonsil stones cause one serious problem - namely, powerful bad breath. You see, a tonsil stone is not an inert accumulation of stuff. It is a living colony of bacteria.
Like a coral reef, a tonsil stone consists of a thriving film of microscopic organisms living atop many layers of dead ones. As you swallow your food, some of it may become lodged in your tonsils. Bacteria go to work consuming this stuff, emitting halitosis in the process.
Over time, more particles adhere to this sticky, white speck in your throat, making it larger and encouraging more microbes to grow on its surface. If left untreated, these objects can get quite large. Case studies have documented tonsil stones greater than an inch across!
While your tonsilloliths are unlikely to get quite that large, they may nevertheless do a number on your breath. Consider gargling with a specialty breath freshening rinse once a day for 30 seconds at a time.
What are tonsil stones' symptoms? Basically, if you notice small white spots at the back of your mouth or experience the persistent urge to clear your throat, you may have tonsil stones.