We have all have tonsils, but do we actually understand what they do and why? What’s more, do we know what tonsil stones and tonsillitis actually are? Let’s start by looking at some basics.
WHAT ARE TONSILS?
Tonsils are gland like structures that sit in the back of our throat. They sit in a pocket on each side of our throat. Their main purpose is to fight and prevent infection of the area by trapping bacteria as it passes through the throat.
WHAT CAUSES TONSIL STONES?
Ironically, tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths, are formed when bacteria from phlegm, food and other debris become trapped in our tonsils. Over time, this debris hardens and then calcifies. Our tonsils are filled with nooks and crannies and this is where tonsil stones form. This mostly occurs in people who have chronic inflammation of their tonsils, or repeated bouts of tonsillitis. Tonsil stones are quite small and they don’t often become large. However, some of the symptoms can be quite painful and hard to manage.
TONSIL STONE SYMPTOMS
The symptoms of tonsil stones are not very noticeable however, there can be multiple symptoms. As tonsil stones are an oral condition, some of the symptoms can be rather embarrassing. These symptoms can include the following:
One of the most common, and certainly worst symptoms of tonsil stones, is bad breath. This is normally associated with a tonsil infection and is usually a result of sulphur compounds contained in the breath. However, tonsil stones can also produce bad breath as they are a result of an accumulation of rotting food and other debris. Eww yuck!
A sore throat usually occurs as a result of tonsillitis. When a tonsil stone forms together with tonsillitis, it can be difficult to determine exactly where the pain is coming from. However, a tonsil stone on its own can also cause pain and discomfort in the area in which it is lodged.
Sometimes tonsil stones become embedded in the area closest to the middle of the throat. This can produce bouts of coughing that can continue until the tonsil stone is removed or dislodged. This can cause a lot of inconvenience and discomfort for the sufferer.
Tonsil stones can lead to tonsillitis as a result of the constant irritation caused by the tonsils. This can lead to swelling of the tonsils, and subsequently, tonsillitis. This can be very uncomfortable and painful.
Ear pain can also be caused by tonsil stones. As tonsil stones can develop anywhere in the tonsil area, and the tonsil shares nerve pathways with the ear, this might cause a person to feel pain in their ear. This is despite the fact the stone itself is not actually touching the ear.
HOW ARE TONSIL STONES TREATED?
This can depend on the size of the tonsil stone and the potential for it to cause discomfort or further harm. Some options include the following:
Removal at home. Some people become so irritated by tonsil stones that they will remove them at home. This is not necessarily recommended. People have used everything from a toothbrush to a toothpick to do this. Care should be taken.
If tonsils stones become large enough to cause severe pain and discomfort, you may choose to have them surgically removed. The procedure for this is relatively simple and it’s done with the use of a numbing agent, as opposed to needing a general anesthetic.
Laser Tonsil Cryptolysis
This is a noninvasive laser treatment. It helps to eliminate pockets and crevices where tonsil stones can become lodged. The procedure will only require a local anesthesia and is a fairly quick and pain-free process.
Gargling morning and night with warm salt water Is a popular way to help to ease the discomfort of tonsil stones and tonsillitis. However, gargling with lemon juice or vinegar mixed with warm water can also assist with the removal of tonsil stones. These methods can also assist with bad breath.
Various antibiotics can be used for the treatment of tonsil stones. However, this does not directly assist with the removal of tonsil stones.
Many types of mouthwash in the marketplace contain alcohol and other chemicals. This can actually have an adverse effect on the condition of your mouth, including making your mouth dry. This, in turn, can create an environment in which bacteria can flourish. Therefore, it is important to check the ingredients of the mouthwash to ensure there isn’t a high concentration of chemicals that may adversely affect the condition of your mouth.
HOW ARE TONSIL STONES PREVENTED?
Regular brushing and flossing of your teeth will certainly go a long way towards preventing tonsil stones from occurring. As mentioned earlier, tonsil stones are formed as a result of calcified food remains and other oral debris. Regular brushing and flossing will help to remove these food particles and other forms of bacteria that may become lodged in your teeth and subsequently, your tonsils.
If you have a chronic case of tonsillitis, the best way to prevent this condition from getting worse, or repeating, is to have the tonsils surgically removed. This procedure is known as a tonsillectomy and removes the tissues of the tonsils completely. If this is done you, basically eliminate the chances of tonsil stones forming. If a tonsillectomy is performed, the patient will be required to undergo a general anesthetic. They will they will also feel some discomfort and pain that will last for a few days after the procedure.
Drinking water on a regular basis allows you to constantly flush your mouth of any leftover food particles after eating. This will also prevent your mouth from drying out too much, which can help in the proliferation of oral bacteria. Smoking is another way in which your mouth can dry out, so you may want to also consider quitting smoking.