- Tonsil Stones: What They Are and How to Get Rid of Them
- How To Prevent Calcium Buildup on Teeth
- How Does Tartar Form?
- Removing Calcium Buildup
- Preventing Calcium Buildup
- Tuesday Q and A: Self-care steps may help prevent tonsil stones from returning
- Everything You Need to Know to Remove and Prevent Tonsil Stones at Home
- Trouble With Tonsil Stones and Bad Breath
- What Causes Tonsil Stones
- Are They Causing Your Bad Breath?
- Other Tonsil Stone Troubles
Tonsil Stones: What They Are and How to Get Rid of Them
Most tonsilloliths are harmless, but many people want to remove them because they can smell bad or cause discomfort. Treatments range from home remedies to medical procedures.
Gargling vigorously with salt water can ease throat discomfort and may help dislodge tonsil stones. Salt water may also help to change your mouth chemistry. It can also help get rid of the odor tonsil stones can cause. Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon salt in 8 ounces of warm water, and gargle.
You may first discover that you have tonsil stones when you cough one up. Energetic coughing can help loosen stones.
Removing the stones yourself with rigid items like a toothbrush is not recommended. Your tonsils are delicate tissues so it’s important to be gentle. Manually removing tonsil stones can be risky and lead to complications, such as bleeding and infection. If you must try something, gently using a water pick or a cotton swab is a better choice.
Minor surgical procedures may be recommended if stones become particularly large or cause pain or persistent symptoms.
Laser tonsil cryptolysis
During this procedure, a laser is used to eliminate the crypts where tonsil stones lodge. This procedure is often performed using local anesthesia. Discomfort and recovery time are usually minimal.
In coblation cryptolysis, no heat is involved. Instead, radio waves transform a salt solution into charged ions. These ions can cut through tissue. As with lasers, coblation cryptolysis reduces tonsil crypts but without the same burning sensation.
A tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of tonsils. This procedure may be done using a scalpel, laser, or coblation device.
Performing this surgery for tonsil stones is controversial. Doctors who recommend tonsillectomy for tonsil stones tend to use it only for severe, chronic cases, and after all other methods have been tried without success.
In some cases, antibiotics can be used to manage tonsil stones. They can be used to lower the bacteria counts that play a crucial role in the development and growth of the tonsil stones.
The downside of antibiotics is that they won’t treat the underlying cause of the stones, and they come with their own potential side effects. They also shouldn’t be used long term, which means the tonsil stones will likely return after you stop using the antibiotics.
How To Prevent Calcium Buildup on Teeth
Calcium buildup on teeth is an unpleasant nuisance that many people deal with continuously. These deposits can often be prevented by regular brushing, but you’ll need the help of your dentist or dental hygienist to remove them once they decide to stick around.
How Does Tartar Form?
Calcium buildup, or tartar as it is commonly called, occurs when the accumulated soft bacterial film that forms on teeth every day picks up calcium and other mineral elements from saliva and the foods you eat and then hardens on the tooth surface. Tartar is typically found on the inner surface of the lower front teeth and on the outer surface of the upper molars next to the cheeks. The reason for this is that there are salivary duct openings in those areas that continuously feed saliva (which includes calcium) into the mouth.
Tartar, which dentists call calculus, can form anywhere on the tooth surface and can be especially troublesome when it builds up between the teeth, where many people neglect to floss. Tartar irritates the gums and serves as a rough surface where disease-causing bacterial plaque can collect. It’s a vicious cycle!
Removing Calcium Buildup
Calcium buildup on teeth can only be removed by scaling the teeth with instruments specifically designed for this purpose. These can be traditional metal-tipped hand instruments or ultrasonic tools that use specific wavelengths to remove tartar and stains. If it’s been a while since you’ve visited a dentist, scaling may take more than one visit. Also, if the tartar on the tooth surface is deep below the gumline, removing it with a deep cleaning may be done with local anesthesia to ensure your comfort.
Scaling is typically done by dental hygienists who are college educated trained and are knowledgeable with working with patients and provide optimal oral health preventive care. You should never try to scale your teeth at home, whether with store-bought dental kits or household objects like toothpicks. The dental hygienist uses an ultrasonic cleaning device and sterilized scaling tips and instruments during the dental hygiene appointment.
Preventing Calcium Buildup
As long as people have teeth, they will have bacterial plaque forming on them, and for many people this will become tartar. The best way to prevent calcium buildup on teeth is to keep them smooth by thoroughly brushing and flossing every day and by having your teeth cleaned professionally at least twice a year. Because of body chemistry and individual differences, some people build up tartar more quickly and need more frequent cleanings. As a professional dentist, I need to get my teeth cleaned every three months to remove the tartar in spite of what I would call excellent home care! According to Consumer Health Digest, rapid tartar buildup can also indicate low levels of certain vitamins or even an increased risk of heart disease, so be sure to share any health concerns you have with your dentist and doctor.
Brushing with a toothpaste helps prevent plaque, gingivitis, tartar buildup, cavities and bad breath. Faithful daily oral hygiene practices and regular visits to your dentist will help minimize dental problems and keep your mouth healthy.
Tuesday Q and A: Self-care steps may help prevent tonsil stones from returning
DEAR MAYO CLINIC: What causes tonsil stones? Is there a way to permanently get rid of them, other than having my tonsils removed? I am 48 and have heard that having a tonsillectomy as an adult is a significant surgery that can lead to other problems.
ANSWER: Tonsil stones form when substances become logged in the crevices of your tonsils. If you are prone to tonsil stones, having your tonsils removed is the most effective way to solve the problem. If, however, you prefer not to do that, there are ways you can safely remove tonsil stones. There also are self-care steps you can take to help prevent them from coming back.
Your tonsils are two oval-shaped pads of tissue at the back of your throat, one on each side. The tonsils are a type of lymph node and work as part of your body’s immune system. They act as filters for bacteria and viruses. They also make disease-fighting white blood cells and antibodies.
The tonsils’ surfaces are irregular. Some people have pits and craters in their tonsils that are deep enough for food particles, bacteria, saliva or mucus to become caught in them. As these substances are pressed into the craters, they eventually develop into tonsil stones.
Also called tonsilliths or tonsil calculi, these stones typically are pastel yellow in appearance. You might be able to see the stones when you examine your tonsils. But if they form deep in the tonsillar tissue, the stones may not be visible.
Common signs and symptoms of tonsil stones are tonsil redness and irritation. These stones also frequently cause bad breath due to the bacteria that collect on them. In some cases, tonsil stones can lead to chronic tonsil inflammation or infection of your tonsils, called tonsillitis. But in many cases, they are simply a nuisance.
If you have a history of developing tonsil stones, the best way to get rid of them permanently is to remove your tonsils. Surgery to take out the tonsils is called a tonsillectomy. It is usually done as an outpatient procedure, so you don’t have to stay overnight in the hospital. As with all surgeries, it carries some risks, such as bleeding after surgery. Most people have throat pain after a tonsillectomy. But the pain often can be effectively managed with medications, along with plenty of fluids and rest.
If your doctor recommends against a tonsillectomy due to your medical history, age or other factors, or if you simply would rather not have your tonsils removed, you can take other steps to deal with tonsil stones.
When stones form, you can remove them either by gently pressing them out with a cotton swab or the back of your tooth brush, or by washing them out with a low-pressure water irrigator. You can use this device to aim a gentle stream of water at the tonsil craters and rinse out debris that may be caught in them.
You can help prevent tonsil stones from forming in the first place by following good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth after meals, at bedtime, and when you get up in the morning. When you brush your teeth, gently brush your tongue, as well. Floss your teeth daily. Regularly use mouthwash that does not have an alcohol base. These techniques can lower the amount of bacteria in your mouth that may contribute to the development of tonsil stones.
If tonsil soreness persists, if your tonsils look very red or bleed easily, or if pain from your tonsils extends to your ear, make an appointment to see your doctor. These symptoms could signal a more serious problem that may require medical attention. — Ann Bell, M.D., Otorhinolaryngology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
Everything You Need to Know to Remove and Prevent Tonsil Stones at Home
When you first notice your tonsil stones and they’re small, you may be able to remove them with natural remedies. Bacteria and infection are the primary issues behind tonsil stones, so antibacterial and anti-inflammatory treatments may help to remove them.
- Apple cider vinegar or any vinegar. Dilute with water and gargle. Vinegar is supposed to be able to break down the stones because of its acidic content.
- Garlic. Studies have shown that garlic has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. It may combat bacterial growth and infection.
- Cotton swab or finger. If you can see the tonsil stone, you may be able to reach it with your finger or a cotton swab and scrape it off. Do this very carefully as it may cause additional infection if done aggressively or if the stone’s larger. Gargle with salt water immediately after you remove a tonsil stone this way. You shouldn’t do this unless the stone is easy to reach and small.
- Coughing. Depending on the size of the stone, coughing could to dislodge a stone in some cases.
- Essential oils. Some oils have anti-inflammatory or antibacterial properties. Examples are myrrh, thieves oil, and lemongrass. These may be able to help reduce or eliminate your tonsil stones. Dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil and place one or two drops on a toothbrush before brushing the stones. Be sure to follow the directions for each specific oil. Because of the number of bacteria, it’s recommended that you don’t use this toothbrush going forward.
- Salt water. One study shows that rinsing with salt water is an effective treatment of oral wounds.
- Yogurt. Eating yogurt that contains probiotics may be able to counteract the bacteria causing tonsil stones.
- Apples. The acidic content of apples may help combat the bacteria in a tonsil stone.
- Carrots. Chewing carrots helps increase saliva and the production of natural antibacterial processes. This may help reduce or eliminate your tonsil stones.
- Onions. Onions are believed to contain strong antibacterial properties. Including them in your diet may help prevent or eliminate tonsil stones.
Shop for apple cider vinegar, essential oils, toothbrushes, and dental floss now.
Most of these natural remedies may only work on smaller tonsil stones or to help prevent them from occurring.
Trouble With Tonsil Stones and Bad Breath
What’s the deal with tonsil stones? Bad breath, irritation and a whitish mark at the back of your throat are a few signs that you have a tonsil stone. But should you be particularly concerned about them? Not everyone develops tonsil stones and many people who do have them aren’t bothered by them. If you are concerned about those white things seemingly embedded in your tonsils, here’s everything you ever wanted to know about tonsil stones.
What Causes Tonsil Stones
When you open your mouth and say “awww,” you can usually see two glands, known as the tonsils, at the back of it. Your tonsils help your immune system by filtering viruses or bacteria that make their way into your body through the mouth, or as the American Academy of Otolaryngology puts it, the tonsils are your “body’s first line of defense.”
As gross as it might sound, your tonsils are coated by mucous, which is the same mucous that lines the inside of your mouth. Along this lining is a number of pits and crypts. How many crypts the tonsils have varies from person to person. It’s in these crypts or pits that bits of food, bacteria and other debris can get stuck. The debris calcifies or hardens, turning into a tonsil stone. If you regularly have inflammation or irritation in your tonsils, you are more likely to develop tonsil stones.
Are They Causing Your Bad Breath?
Many people with tonsil stones don’t have any problems with them. As a 2013 study in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research put it, tonsil stones are uncommon and are very small when they do occur. Although many people with tonsil stones don’t have any symptoms and might not even be able to see their tonsil stones, bad breath and other signs and symptoms can be connected to them.
Tonsil stones can be responsible for halitosis, and it might be linked to about 3 percent of bad breath cases, as a review published in 2014 in Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery noted. The review also pointed out that more research should be done to figure out how big of a role tonsil stones and the tonsils play in causing bad breath.
Other Tonsil Stone Troubles
The larger the tonsil stone is, the more likely it is to cause symptoms, as a case report published in the Journal of Surgical Case Reports noted in 2014. The case report shared the story of a 17-year-old patient who had dysphagia, or trouble swallowing. The doctors who worked with her discovered a large tonsil stone on the left tonsil. The doctors removed both the stone and the tonsils from the patient.
What You Can Do About Them
Bad breath, trouble swallowing and inflammation – tonsil stones aren’t fun. The good news is that problems from tonsil stones are rare. The even better news is that you can prevent them from occurring.
Brushing your teeth regularly will sweep any food bits, bacteria and other debris out of your mouth before it has a chance to get stuck in the tonsils. If you’re concerned about bad breath, whether related to tonsil stones or not, rinsing with a mouthwash will help freshen your breath and kill the majority of bacteria in the mouth.
If tonsil stones are causing you a lot of discomfort or other troubles, you’ll want to speak with your dentist or doctor. Although it’s not performed as often today as it once was, sometimes a tonsillectomy, or surgically removing the tonsils, is the best way to prevent tonsil stones and any other issues you have with the tonsils.
Think of your tonsils like the appendix of your mouth. They help your immune system, but if they’re causing you trouble, you can live without them.