Tonsil Stones Treatment and Removal Guide
Tonsil stones are an annoying but benign issue of oral health. In most cases, no significant side effects are present beyond the ever-present bad breath and occasional discomfort in the throat. Fortunately for those who suffer from the affliction, there is no need to be unduly concerned.
What are Tonsil Stones?
To those people experiencing tonsil stones who want to know more about them, such as what they are and what their presence means in terms of their overall health, there is no need to be overly alarmed. While noticing the condition may be a bit startling at first, the condition is benign and does not indicate serious pathology or any associated medical problems. Those most likely to acquire this condition are generally between the ages of 20 and 40. It is not often seen in children or the elderly. The existence of small tonsil stones often remains unnoticed by the individual and is detected accidentally in routine dental exams or x-rays. Until quite recently, this condition was not regularly addressed by oral care providers; the consensus being that it was more of an annoying anomaly than a identifiable medical issue. Sufferers were often told that the problem was simply related to food particles that were not cleansed from the mouth and throat.
Tonsil stones, which are known scientifically as “tonsilloliths”, are discrete accumulations of hardened calcium, food debris, mucus and bacteria. Other various anaerobic sulfur compounds are also found in the stones. It is the presence of these sulfur compounds that causes the disagreeable odor associated with the condition. These materials will occasionally collect on the tonsils of the soft palate near the roof of the mouth or at the back of the tongue. Stones may manifest in clusters or individually. Commonly, they form in the tonsil crypts; the concave structures that exist on the surface of the tonsils. Their colors range from white to light brown. A typical stone is approximately one half millimeter wide and weighs 200 to 300 milligrams. Larger stones are noted regularly. Obviously, these formations appear only in people whose tonsils have not been removed. To anyone who has had the opportunity to look inside one of these globules, its offensive aesthetic characteristics are powerful and immediately apparent; due predominantly to the intense, putrid aroma that it emits.
What Causes Tonsil Stones?
The purpose of the tonsils is to trap, and therefore to prevent airborne particulates and other matter from entering the body through the throat. They also filter lymph fluid. Unfortunately, the tonsils cannot always differentiate between harmful and benign particles and tend to retain tiny bits of matter indiscriminately. This can be exaggerated if the amount of lymph fluid is more than the tonsils can effectively filter. Often, this matter settles into crevasses in the tonsils.
A universally accepted understanding of tonsil stone causes is not yet fully developed, although there is some common ground on which most of the theories are founded. Even so, there still is considerable debate about the subject among the experts.
One thing on which the experts can agree however, is that tonsil stones are apparently a product of the accumulation of various materials, as noted above, in the tonsil crypts and that these accumulations are associated with the growth of fungi and assorted bacteria. Many agree that this process can be precipitated by chronic tonsillitis. Other factors that are part of the debate regarding tonsil stones causes are overactive salivary glands, excessive accumulation of dead leukocytes (white blood cells), oral bacteria and mucus, and the action of enzymes on food that is trapped in the mouth. Post-nasal drip is another possible contributory element. It is also possible that certain dietary and lifestyle factors, like stress for example, may be contributory factors.
Current research indicates that there may be an identifiable mechanism at work. In essence, the findings suggest that bacteria in the oral cavity form structures that use dormant bacteria as their breeding ground which can be the center of infection. The structure becomes impervious, preventing antibiotic treatment. These structures grow and become calcified. Chemical processes called “dentrification” occur in the center with aerobic respiration occurring at the surface and acidification occurring at the base.
No uniform scientific explanation for the cause of tonsil stones has yet been published that is universally accepted. It is quite apparent, though, that the occurrence of tonsil stones is a recognized and quantifiable phenomenon that requires additional study.
What are the Symptoms of Tonsil Stones?
According to the majority of published literature on the subject, tonsil stones usually display no significant symptoms. That may work well in a scientific study, but for those who suffer from it, that is a demonstrably misguided conclusion. In some cases, it is true that no symptoms exist but, in fact, most sufferers from tonsil stones relate an extremely wide array of symptoms that vary in nature and severity. Foremost among them, and the one most common symptom that is experienced by a majority of affected people, is the presence of intense, chronic bad breath. The existence of that symptom is often what prompts the individual to seek professional help that, in turn, leads to the discovery of the stones. It is not uncommon for some people to be unaware that the condition exists except for that unfortunate indicator.
Let us note a partial list of other symptoms that are not necessarily recognized by the medical community but are clearly identified by the individuals who must live with them. The presence of one or more of these symptoms is not an absolute indicator that tonsil stones are the cause; instead, they are merely useful in making that determination.
Two less common symptoms that are occasionally reported are lack of energy and dizziness. It is unclear that they are directly relatable to the existence of tonsil stones. It is wise to keep in mind that all of the symptoms listed here, although often present in individuals who suffer from tonsil stones, are not definitive in the diagnosis of the condition.What are Tonsil stones Treatment options?
Removing tonsil stones need not be terribly difficult. The primary thing to note in terms of tonsil stones treatment options is that no product or method, no matter how effective it is at removing an existing stone, can guarantee the condition will not recur without continued use of the products. The only procedure that can is the removal of the tonsils. This drastic solution to an annoying but essentially harmless condition should be considered only in those persistent cases in which the existence of tonsil stones presents a constant and severe state of discomfort and highly offensive bad breath and not other solution can be found. There are techniques that address the immediate problem on a temporary basis and yield satisfactory results. For tonsil stones that manifest no symptoms at all, including bad breath, no treatment is necessary or recommended.
TheraBreath® Products to Treat Tonsil Stones
In addition to being one of the most powerfully effective lines of oral hygiene products available, Dr. Harold Katz's TheraBreath mouthwashes, drops, toothpastes, sprays and gum also provide professionally potent relief from the discomfort and bad breath caused by tonsil stones. Because many of the components responsible for the formation of tonsilloliths are the same components responsible for bad breath, many TheraBreath products can help prevent tonsil stones from developing within the deep fissures covering the surface of tonsils. However, Dr. Katz went even further in his quest to offer sufferers of tonsil stones with special items designed exclusively for tonsil stone relief.
TheraBreath's Tonsil Stones Deluxe Kit contains everything you need to keep those noxious, nasty stones from forming — oxygenating toothpaste, oral rinses, nasal-sinus drops to relieve nasal passage and post-nasal drip odors and AktivOxigen serum containing OXYD-8, Dr. Katz's patented compound that stimulates saliva flow and increases the oxygen level existing in the mouth. By creating an environment hostile to anaerobic bacteria and preventing the accumulation of mouth debris needed as food for VSC-producing bacteria, TheraBreath's Tonsil Stones Deluxe Kit alleviates the ability for bacteria, mucus and food particles to congregate in tonsil crevices and develop into tonsil stones.
Home Remedies for Tonsil Stones
Some of the common home remedies and treatment options are quite simple. The first and most effective of these is to remove the stone or stones. This can usually be done by using a combination of practices including gargling with salt water to dislodge the stone, then removing it very carefully with a cotton swab, eye dropper or fingers if the stone is not dislodged from gargling alone. It is sometimes necessary to use greater pressure, such as a water-pick, to loosen the stones from the tonsils so they can be easily removed. Another method of removal is to gently push up from the bottom of the tonsil with a finger or a cotton swab, thereby forcing the stone up and out of the crypt in which it is located. Small, surface tonsil stones can occasionally be dislodged by brushing with a toothbrush. For very large stones, or stones that create other, potentially harmful side effects, surgical removal is a viable option. The procedure can be done without the need for general anesthesia in a doctor’s office.
Another potentially effective practice is to maintain a program of rigorous oral hygiene, including regular cleansing of the tongue. Because one cause of tonsil stones is thought to be initiated by bacteria living on and under the surface of the tongue, this approach has obvious common sense merit. Keeping the mouth, throat and tongue clean also minimizes the amount of mucus and bacteria present. This reduces the potential of calcification of these substances; another supposed cause of stone formation. Drinking water and chewing gum sugar-free gum help to prevent dry mouth which will retard the production of bacteria in the oral cavity and help to control bad breath.
Tonsil stones is an issue of no significant harmful consequence to the people who are afflicted by the condition. The most troublesome symptom is often considered to be the attendant, very offensive bad breath. Rather than health issues, tonsil stones presents numerous annoyances and inconveniences that can amount to genuine problems for roughly ten percent of the population. That is not to indicate that the condition is not something to be seriously studied; it certainly is. The good news is that there are apparently no serious side effects nor does the presence of these stones indicate meaningful negative medical concerns. It is alternately possible to have them and yet be unaware that the problem exists, and for them to be a constant and uncomfortable presence.
Treatment and prevention, to the extent possible, is easily undertaken by the affected individual with no need for medical attention except in the most severe cases. If all other attempts to effectively deal with the problem fail, removing the tonsils will alleviate the potential of recurrence, but this should be avoided unless all other options have been proven uneffective. The best advice to date, from both health professionals and those with tonsil stones, is to engage in a diligent program of oral care and regular, thorough cleansing.
Symptoms of tonsil stones may include any of the following:
- Bad breath. This is a product of the sulfur compounds and bacteria that are parts of the physical makeup of the stones.
- Pain or discomfort when swallowing. This can be caused by obstruction due to an unusually large stone or by the irritation that tonsil stones often create. Throat irritation can also be a byproduct of chronic coughing or swollen tonsils which are both additional symptoms.
- Chronic or persistent coughing. This is a natural response to what is perceived by the body as an intruder in the throat. Coughing is the natural way for the body to expel foreign matter from air passages, including the throat. A protruding stone is easily mistaken for a foreign object imbedded in the throat.
- Irritated or swollen tonsils. This is often misdiagnosed as tonsillitis, especially if no other symptoms of tonsil stones are evident. There are other causes of this symptom unrelated to the condition but it is a possible indicator.
- Ear discomfort. There are nerve pathways that are shared by the throat and the ears. The existence of stones on certain tonsillar areas can cause pain or discomfort in the ears. Because many other conditions can cause ear pain, it is difficult to ascribe the discomfort exclusively to the presence of stones. If such discomfort persists, it is important to take appropriate action to identify the cause such as consulting with your doctor.
- White bumps in the throat. White bumps are often visible tonsil stones. If they are, this is the simplest and most direct diagnosis.
- White, coated tongue. An accumulation of sulfur containing components on the tongue and throat may be created by anaerobic bacteria that exist under the surface of the tongue. These are the same elements found in tonsil stones and are responsible for the bad breath that usually occurs. The coating is persistent and difficult to remove because its cause is not alleviated with any standard treatment.
- Metallic taste in the mouth. This is a product of minute secretions of the substances contained in the tonsil stones.