Bad breath-causing tonsil stones are living biofilms, scientists say
Among the many things that can cause halitosis, tonsil stones are some of the smelliest. Found in the back of the throat, these small white granules are caused by the buildup up food particles in the folds of tonsils. Researchers have said that the bad breath-causing stones are actually made of a dense film of living things.
Also called tonsilloliths, tonsil stones are common in anyone who has not had his or her tonsils removed. Those infection-fighting glands hung behind the tongue can form deep wrinkles or folds, especially after fighting off an illness. These wrinkles begin to collect food matter, and tonsil stones begin to grow.
Since they are white and rounded, it is easy to compare tonsilloliths to pearls - if unpleasant ones. However, research published in the journal Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery suggested that a better metaphor might be sea coral.
Researchers found that, like coral, the surface of tonsil stones are crawling with anaerobic bacteria, which thrive on food particles and sugars in the mouth. This layer is called a "biofilm," which is a dense net of organisms stuck together. Underneath, tonsil stones are composed of dead bacteria and collagen.
They can be coughed up and have an extremely strong odor. To reduce the small caused by the bacteria living on tonsil stones, individuals may consider gargling with a specialty breath freshening product at least once a day.