Tonsils are two masses of lymphoid tissue, that are located on either side at the back of the throat. These are a part of the immune system of the human body. Tonsils perform the essential function of trapping the pathogens that enter the oral cavity through inhaled air or ingestion of foods. Since tonsils contain crypts or small pockets on its surface, bacteria, dead cells and mucus could get trapped inside these pockets.
If the debris remains lodged inside the tonsillar crypts, it may harden to form tonsil stones. Tonsil stones, which are also referred to as tonsilloliths or tonsillar crypts, are small white colored lumps that appear on the tonsils. In this article, we will look into the causes and symptoms of tonsil stones along with home remedies for tonsil stones.
What Causes Tonsil Stones?
As mentioned earlier, there are many pits on the surface of the tonsils. As we masticate the food, the salivary enzymes that act on food, break the food down. The bacteria that may be present in the oral cavity, act on the residue of the ingested food. These residues, along with mucus and dead cells, can sometimes, become lodged and harden in the form of tonsil stones in the pits present on the tonsils.
Those who suffer from chronic inflammation of the tonsils, are certainly at an increased risk of developing tonsil stones. Exposure to viruses or bacteria that may cause a throat infection, can certainly make one susceptible to tonsillitis, which in turn, may give rise to formation of tonsilloliths. Inflammation of tonsils can sometimes be accompanied by enlargement of tonsils. Severe inflammation can give rise to distressing symptoms such as throat pain, sore throat, fever or difficulty in swallowing food.
Formation of tonsil stones, on the other hand, can become a very embarrassing problem for the patient. Though tonsil stones don't pose any serious health risks, one does suffer from bad breath. Those who often suffer from tonsil stones, may either have these removed surgically, or can follow certain home remedies in order to get rid of tonsilloliths.
Remedies for Getting Rid of Tonsil Stones
As mentioned earlier, a foul-smelling breath is the characteristic sign of tonsil stones. People suffering from recurrent bouts of tonsillitis, often complain about developing tonsil stones every now and then. If you frequently develop tonsil stones, you can either seek medical help or follow certain tried-and-tested home remedies.
Regular Brushing and Flossing
Those who don't brush their teeth properly, certainly provide bacteria the perfect environment to grow. It is therefore essential that you brush and floss your teeth properly. There is a great need to ensure that bacteria are not allowed to thrive in the mouth. Make sure that you use a good quality toothbrush that can dislodge debris from hard-to-reach places. Scraping your tongue with a tongue-cleaner will also help.
Use an Oxygenated Toothpaste
Instead of using toothpastes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate that may provide freshness but may actually be harmful, invest in a good quality oxygenated toothpaste. Oxygenated toothpastes certainly help in killing bacteria in the oral cavity, and thus lower the incidence of tonsil stones, thereby preventing bad breath.
Use a Non-alcoholic Mouthwash
Since tonsil stones form when bacteria act on food debris, you must make sure that food debris is not stuck between the teeth. Using a good quality non-alcoholic mouthwash will not only help in flushing out the food debris, but also prevent bacteria from thriving in the oral cavity. The reason why alcoholic mouthwashes are not recommended is to due to their drying effect on the mouth. Since they cause dryness of mouth, thereby encouraging growth of bacteria, usage of such alcoholic mouthwashes can increase the incidence of tonsil stones.
Avoid Foods that Cause Excessive Mucus
Consumption of certain foods contribute to an excessive buildup of mucus, which in turn, can lead to the formation of tonsilloliths. One must therefore, cut down on intake of dairy products, butter, fried foods, white sugar and acidic foods. There is also a great need to increase one's intake of water and fluids. You must drink lots of water, however, remember to cut down on intake of sugar-rich drinks. Drinking water will prevent dryness of mouth, and also prevent the formation of tonsil stones. It will also prevent bad breath.
One of the most commonly used tonsil stones home remedy is to gargle with lukewarm saline solution. You must start gargling with warm salt water, as soon as you spot these tonsil stones. Gargle several times in a day. The tonsil stone will soon get dislodged from the crypt on its own. Gargling with a baking soda solution or a solution made from grapefruit seed extract and water, may also help.
Another great home remedy would be to use an oral irrigator. This is an electricity powered device wherein a stream of water is used for dislodging debris from the teeth. The stream of water can be directed at the tonsils, so as to dislodge the tonsil stone from the crypt.
Probing the Tonsil Stone
One can also probe the tonsillolith with a clean soft-bristled toothbrush. If one is not careful, there is a high risk of injury to the tonsils. So, make sure that you do this gently. You can also moisten a clean cotton bud with warm water, and place it around the tonsil stone. Apply mild pressure in order to loosen the tonsil stone. If the tonsil stone comes out, spit it out and gargle with an antibacterial mouthwash.
Small tonsil stones may even come out during coughing spells. After you probe the tonsil stone with a toothbrush, or a cotton bud, cough forcefully. If the stone has been loosened from its place, you may be able to spit it out. As mentioned earlier, gargle with a mouthwash, after spitting out the tonsil stone.
While you can try the aforementioned home remedies for getting rid of tonsil stones, it's equally important to ensure that you follow a healthy diet and stay well hydrated at all times. Rinse your mouth every now and then. If the problem of bad breath is bothering you, you must follow an oral hygiene routine. You can also gargle with warm water with freshly squeezed lemon juice added to it. Chewing fresh mint leaves or green cardamom may also help in freshening your breath. If the tonsil stones are too big, consult a doctor for the removal of tonsil stones.