We usually associate stones in our body with kidneys. Apparently, it’s not the only organ where stones can form as they might also develop in our tonsils. They hardly ever lead to more serious health complications, but they may cause some pain and swelling. Learn what are the causes, symptoms, and ways of treating tonsil stones.
What Are Tonsil Stones?
Tonsils can be found in our throat, they are fleshy and soft structures which consist of specific tissues known as lymphocytes. They are very important cells that can stimulate our immune system to fight and prevent infections. If tonsils perform their function well, they protect us from various bacteria and viruses. If they don’t work as they should, tonsil stones develop.
Tonsils are built from tunnels, crevices and tonsil crypts, where different materials and bacteria such as mucus, saliva, dead cells or some food fragments may hide and accumulate to form pockets. When the time passes, these materials calcify and become hard. This process leads to the development of tonsil stones.
Tonsil stones, also known as tonsillitis or tonsil calculi, usually develop in the back of the mouth behind our wisdom teeth and lower molars. However, they can also accumulate on the roof of the mouth or in the back of the mouth. Tonsil stones are usually whitish and yellowish, and they have irregular shapes.
What Are The Symptoms?
Some people don’t even notice that they have tonsil stones as they don’t cause any visible symptoms or pain. Others, however, experience various unpleasant symptoms.
The major symptom of tonsil stones is bad breath. As it has been mentioned above, tonsil stones form because of the accumulated materials in crevices of tonsils. Then, various bacteria and fungi develop on these build ups and that leads to the unpleasant smell. Bad breath also happens when tonsil stones go together with tonsils infection.
Another common symptom of tonsil stones is a sore throat. If tonsil stones are large or they are badly located, they can irritate the throat, causing pain and infection. Additionally, it can create the feeling of discomfort, especially while swallowing.
Ear pain is not so common, but it also happens when a tonsil stone develops near the ear area. Tonsil stones may also lead to inflammation or infection, which may result in tonsil swelling.
Other common symptoms include the feeling as if something was lodged in your throat. You can also cough frequently without any particular reason or feel that your throat is irritated. The tonsils might be red and you can experience a metallic taste in your mouth.
In most severe cases, you might feel a strong pain or you can observe that your tonsils are inflamed or that they bleed. If that happens, consult your doctor immediately.
Some tonsil stones don’t look like typical stones, but like a lump of solid white debris. However, it’s just an impression because the stones are just hidden in the folds of the tonsils. In such case they may be visible only with the use of CT scans or magnetic resonance imaging.
How to Recognize Tonsil Stones
The symptoms described above may indicate that you suffer from tonsil stones, but they can also suggest many different conditions. In some cases, however, depending on their location, you can detect and observe the tonsil stones on your own.
Tonsil stones occur in the shades of yellow, gray and white. You will find them in soft tissue of the tonsils. Tonsils, on the other hand, are fleshy structures located on the both sides of the back of your throat. They are oval and consist of crypts, pits, craters, and crevices.
Try to use a small mirror and a proper lighting and you should be able to see the whitish and yellowish stones in your tonsils. Sometimes, however, they are hidden it the tissue of the tonsils. Therefore, if you have typical symptoms of tonsil stones, but you can’t see them, consult your doctor.
How to Get Rid of Tonsil Stones Naturally
The effectiveness of natural, home-made methods often depends on the size of stones and how painful they are. However, it’s always worth trying them before you turn to medical treatments.
1. Try Salty Water
One of the easiest solutions to tonsil stones is rinsing your throat with salty water. Salty water has cleansing qualities and therefore it can wash off all the small materials like mucus or food pieces, which accumulated in your tonsils.
If you also deal with frequent sore throat or infections, salty water can be useful as well, due to its antibacterial qualities. If you rinse your tonsils with salty water on a daily basis, you will reduce the unpleasant breath and you will prevent the tonsil stones development. Instead of salty water you can also go for a non-alcoholic mouth wash.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day is good for your organism because it flushes the toxins out of your body. Similarly, it can also help you to clean your tonsils from the unwanted debris.
When you drink plenty of water every day, your organism is well-hydrated and that keeps the bacteria back as they won’t find good conditions to survive. Tonsils are a crucial part of our immune system so keep them clean by something as simple as drinking pure water.
3. Remember About Vitamin C
If you want to get rid of tonsil stones naturally, you must provide your body with a proper amount of vitamin C. Instead of supplementation, though, squeeze some juice out of lemon or lime and mix at least three tablespoon of it with warm water. If the taste is too sour for you, add there a little bit of honey.
Before you drink the mixture, gargle your throat for a while to clean the tonsils and to remove the stones. Do it every day and you should see the difference quickly.
4. Eat Raw Garlic and Onions
Garlic is a natural antibiotic as well as it has wonderful antibacterial properties. As tonsil stones are an infection with a bacterial background, garlic can successfully cure the tonsil stones.
To remove and to prevent the bacteria from your oral cavity just chew garlic cloves a few times a day. Remember to brush your teeth, though, as the smell from garlic is quite intense.
Raw onions have similar, antibacterial qualities to garlic. Eat three onions a day and you will remove the tonsil stones. Raw onions will also protect your oral cavity from other infections.
5. Drink Yogurt
Yogurts consist of probiotics which act as a protective layer against various bacteria. Therefore, drinking yogurt not only can help you remove tonsil stones, but it can also prevent further development of tonsils.
It is important, though, to choose a natural yogurt, which is unsweetened. If you don’t like the taste of it, add there some fresh fruit such as strawberries or blackberries.
6. Don’t Forget About a Balanced Diet
What you eat every day may be crucial when it comes to preventing and eliminating tonsil stones. Your diet must be full of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics. Consume a lot of vegetables and fruit as they will make your mouth watery and that’s not the environment the bacteria like.
As it has already been mentioned, natural yogurt is a good option. However, you should avoid other dairy products as they often lead to the formation of mucus, which is one of the culprits of tonsil stones. Too much calcium in a diet may also cause tonsil stones.
7. Take Care of Your Oral Cavity
Remember that the bacteria and fungus that gather in your mouth are the main cause of tonsil stones so it is crucial to keep good oral hygiene. Unfortunately, many people don’t do it properly.
Brush your teeth with a high quality toothpaste at least twice a day and do it thoroughly. Change your toothbrush regularly as it is often the source of bacteria. After you’ve brushed your teeth, always gargle with the use of special mouth wash or salty water.
How to Remove Tonsil Stones at Home Fast
The above described solutions are effective in reducing tonsil stones, but it may take a while before they start working. There are, however, some methods which will enable you to remove the stones at home quickly.
To remove the stones from your throat you need to see the inside of your mouth clearly. Therefore, before approaching any of the methods, prepare a stable mirror and a stable lighting as probably you will need your both hands free.
1. Remove Tonsil Stones with Your Tongue
You might have thought that it’s probably better not to touch or poke around your tonsils stones. Apparently, it turns out to be not such a bad idea. If you don’t feel pain when you touch your tonsils stones or they don’t seem irritated, you may try to loosen them a little bit with your tongue.
Once you detect where your tonsil stones are located, try to push on them with your tongue. You can also swallow hard at the back of your throat and try to cough to let your stones free.
The method may take you a while as the stones are usually firmly bedded in your tonsil, but it may work. To help yourself you can also gargle with salty water or a mouth wash for around thirty seconds to make your oral cavity more watery.
2. Eliminate Tonsil Stones with Your Toothbrush
A regular toothbrush can help you get rid of tonsil stones fast too. Its long shape is perfect for scratching the stones off your tonsils.
Take your tongue out and say a loud “Aaahh” to see the back of your mouth better. Now try to lift the tonsil tissue with the flat tip of your toothbrush. If you see the stones, try to scrap them from your tonsils with the brush side of your toothbrush.
3. Use a Cotton Swab or Your Finger
Cotton swabs can make the manipulation on the stones easier. Wet the swabs before you start removing the stones so they are more gentle to the tonsils.
First, locate the stones in your throat with the use of a cotton swab and then try to scratch them off your tonsils. Or try to push the stones a little bit so that they could pop out.
You can try to do it with your fingers as well, but remember to wash your hands carefully before and after the process. Gargle with water or salty water to disinfect your oral cavity.
4. Use a Water Flossing Tool
A water flossing device can help you remove the tonsil stones due to the force of water. Use the appliance along with a toothbrush or a cotton swab to be effective.
Be careful, though, as there is a risk of choking so use a water flossing tool only for a few seconds and point it directly on the stones.
5. Buy a Special Kit
There are various tonsil stone removal kits available on the market. You will find them at the chemist’s or on the Internet. They occur in different sizes and their price also varies, however, they might turn out to be quite helpful in eliminating the tonsil stones.
Medical Treatment for Tonsil Stones
If home methods don’t work or you’ve been experiencing some additional symptoms, such as the feeling of pain and discomfort in your throat, redness, irritation, bleeding from tonsils, or you’ve been feeling that the pain spreads into one or both ears, you should visit a doctor.
It’s recommended to consult a laryngologist, also called as ENT doctor as it’s a specialist who deals with our ears, nose, and throat. Thus, he could remove the stones from your tonsils during the appointment. Don’t be afraid of the procedure as he can use a local anesthetic if you are particularly sensitive.
A doctor may also offer you one of the following methods of treatment for tonsil stones.
Some doctors decide to fight the tonsil stones with the antibiotics, but it’s a rather short term way of treatment. The most popular antibiotic used in this condition is amoxicillin. It forms an environment in your throat which is unsuitable for the bacteria to survive.
You need to be aware, though, the antibiotic doesn’t eliminate the existing bacteria, but only prevents them from building up. The antibiotic will work only while you’re taking it, so it’s likely that the tonsil stones will come back some time after you finish the treatment.
What’s more, if you follow the antibiotic therapy a few times, the bacteria in your tonsils may become immune to the medication and your condition may get even worse. Additionally, you may suffer from various side effects of taking antibiotics, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or stomach pain.
Tonsillectomy is a surgical removal of your tonsils. It is always a last resort and no doctor will recommend you this solution until you’ve tried all the other possible methods. The surgery is advised only if your tonsils stones come back frequently and nothing else seems to work on them.
Some doctors are totally against this procedure as tonsils are supposed to protect our organism from bacteria and viruses and that once you remove them, your immune system will become vulnerable to infections.
Others, however, who had their tonsils removed, report that they haven’t noticed any difference in getting ill before or after the surgery. Some even state that after the tonsils removal they don’t get ill so often as they used to.
In some cases a partial tonsillectomy is just enough. It means that only the area affected with your stones is removed and the rest of the tonsils remain untouched. This procedure prevents the development of tonsil stones in the future.
In general, the operation is considered to be safe. However, as with every surgery, there are some possible risks. They usually refer to problems after the procedure, such as pain or bleeding.
Just after the surgery you will have to take some stronger painkillers prescribed by your doctor and you will have some difficulties with eating for a while. It’s recommended to drink a lot of fluids and rest.
Cryptolysis is less invasive method than tonsillectomy and it’s less troublesome for a patient. There are two types of cryptolysis available – laser tonsil cryptolysis and coblation cryptolysis.
In the first type a specialist uses a laser to remove the crevices and pockets in which the tonsils are located. It’s a minor procedure, which doesn’t cause any pain or discomfort. After the treatment you don’t have to take any special measures too.
In the second type your doctor will use waves to cut through the tonsil tissue. This technique also eliminates crevices and pockets together with the tonsil stones. This method also doesn’t cause any unpleasant reactions.
The only problem with cryptolysis is that it is a short-term treatment and tonsil stones may come back in the future as in both methods the tonsil tissues are left almost untouched.
How to Prevent Tonsil Stones
Once you removed your tonsil stones, you need to take some measures to prevent the stones from future development.
The key rule is to take special care of your oral hygiene on a daily basis. You need to brush your teeth thoroughly at least twice a day. It will help you keep a clean environment in your oral cavity, free of bacteria. While brushing your teeth, clean also your tongue as it helps to eliminate some food pieces and bacteria.
Use mouth washes regularly. You can buy a ready-made product at the chemist’s, but choose the one which is either alcohol-free or it contains only a low percentage of alcohol. Using a mouth wash every day will eliminate the bacteria from your mouth.
You can also use salty water to rinse your mouth as this simple remedy can also protect your tonsils from stones development.
Your aim should be to eliminate as many bacteria from your oral cavity as possible. Thus, you should also floss every day. Once you flossed, gargle or rinse your mouth with salty water and a mouth wash as it removes the food pieces and bacteria left after the flossing.
Remember to exchange your toothbrush regularly, even if it doesn’t look old or worn. It’s optimal to buy a new toothbrush every three months.
After you brush your teeth don’t forget to clean the toothbrush carefully as it is the source of bacteria. If you don’t take care of your toothbrush, you carry the bacteria from it into your mouth.
Drink at least eight glasses of water every day as it is the cheapest and the easiest way of keeping your oral cavity clean, fresh and watery. In such an environment bacteria won’t grow.
Take care of a balanced diet, in which you consume a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit. Include especially such products as garlic, onions, carrots, and apples. It is important not to consume junk food or soft drinks too.
Try taking probiotics as they help to keep a good balance of bacteria in your organism. Probiotics are also good for our metabolism and digestive system.
As you can see there are many ways to treat and prevent tonsil stones. Be aware that many tonsil stones don’t require any treatments if they don’t cause any pain and discomfort.
However, if you do want to get rid of them, start with the simplest and natural solutions as in many cases they are very effective. Very often simple things such as gargling or maintaining a proper oral hygiene are just enough to get rid of the problem.
If you have any doubts or you’ve been experiencing some additional symptoms, don’t hesitate and consult your doctor. Don’t linger with the visit if you feel strong pain, you’ve been coughing, have throat infections frequently, or you noticed bleeding and severe irritation of your tonsils.