Preventing tonsil stones: methods and more
Tonsil stones are hard stones that form in the tonsils. Some people with tonsils may not have symptoms while others may experience bad breath, a sore throat, and other problems.
Tonsil stones can go away with home remedies. However, people with problematic or larger tonsil stones may need medical help.
In this article, we’ll look at the causes and symptoms of tonsil stones and provide tips on how to avoid them and prevent them from coming back. We also explain when to see a doctor.
Almond stones, also called tonsillolites, form when dirt and bacteria build up in the almonds. This structure then calcified to form hard stones.
Tonsil stones can vary in size, but are usually small. Large tonsils are rare.
Tonsil stones are more common in adults than children.
They’re not harmful, but people may need treatment if they experience uncomfortable symptoms.
Good oral hygiene is important when treating tonsil stones. It can also help prevent their development in the first place, as it can help reduce bacteria and food particles in the mouth.
Steps to maintaining good oral hygiene include:
- Use of a toothpaste containing fluoride
- Brush your teeth twice a day and floss every day
- drink fluorinated water
- Have a dentist appointment at least once a year or as often as the dentist recommends
- Limiting or avoiding alcohol and tobacco
- Replacement of the toothbrush or the head of an electric toothbrush every 3 months
- Drink plenty of water
- Restricting the consumption of foods with added sugar
- Chewing sugar-free gum, which may stimulate the flow of saliva in the mouth, especially in people with dry mouths
A person who has had tonsils in the past can help prevent their return by doing the following:
Gargle with salt water
Gargling with warm salt water can help loosen tonsil stones. It is possible that gargling with salt water can also help keep the stones from coming back, although there is no specific scientific evidence for this.
Gargling with salt water can also help reduce bacteria in the mouth. A 2017 study compared the antimicrobial effects of a saltwater rinse with that of a chlorhexidine mouth rinse.
The researchers divided the 30 participants between the ages of 12 and 15 into two groups. One group used the salt water rinse while the other group used mouthwash.
Each group used their assigned product for 30 seconds a day for 5 days.
Although the chlorhexidine mouthwash was more effective at reducing oral bacteria, the saltwater rinse was just as effective as chlorhexidine at reducing plaque and microbes in the mouth. The researchers also found that a saltwater flush had other benefits, such as fewer potential side effects and easily accessible and affordable.
Another study found that gargling with salt water can help with oral wound healing.
Using an antibacterial mouthwash can help reduce oral bacteria and plaque, both of which can contribute to the formation of tonsil stones.
The American Dental Association advises people to look for a mouthwash that contains the following active ingredients:
- Cetyl pyridinium chloride
- Chlorhexidine (only available by prescription)
- essential oils
The ADA advises that a mouthwash containing these ingredients can also help reduce bad breath, gingivitis, plaque, and tooth decay.
Use a water silk
Using a water silk is one way to reduce plaque in your mouth and remove food particles from between your teeth, which can lead to tonsils.
A water silk is a portable device that a person uses to sprinkle water into their mouth to remove food debris. It can be a good option for people who find flossing difficult to use or who have orthodontic appliances like braces.
Removal of tonsils
People with severe, recurring tonsil stones may want to consider medical treatment.
The only confirmed method of preventing tonsil stones from returning is with tonsillectomy or tonsillectomy.
Tonsil stones can range in size from 1 millimeter to 1 centimeter (cm) in diameter. A 2018 case study reported a large tonsil stone measuring 3.1 cm by 2.3 cm.
Tonsil stones form on the tonsils, which are the tonsils that are visible in the back of the throat. They are white or yellow and people may notice them in the form of white spots on the tonsils. Larger stones may be easier to spot than smaller stones.
Signs and symptoms of tonsils are:
However, some people with tonsils may not experience symptoms.
The tonsils are glands in the back of the mouth that trap bacteria and prevent infections from entering the body.
The tonsils have several folds called tonsil crypts. Food debris can collect in these parts of the almonds and harden into stones. Enlarged tonsil crypts can also trap calcium, which can then harden into stones.
An almond stone is a living biofilm. A biofilm forms when bacteria secrete a sticky substance that helps them adhere to a surface in a humid environment such as the mouth.
The same bacteria and fungi that can cause tonsillitis, inflammation of the tonsils, can also cause tonsil stones.
Tonsil stones are not harmful. However, a person may want to see a doctor if they have one or more tonsil stones that:
- causes uncomfortable symptoms
- does not respond to home remedies
Anyone who suspects they have tonsillitis should see a doctor.
Symptoms of tonsillitis are:
- swollen tonsils
- Almonds that are redder than usual
- a white or yellow coating on the almonds
- Changes in voice due to swelling
- a sore throat
- swollen glands in the neck
- Difficulty or discomfort when swallowing
- bad breath
A doctor will usually diagnose tonsil stones by performing a physical exam. In some cases, they can also use imaging tests to examine the tonsil stone in more detail.
Almond stones are usually small in size and can be treated with home remedies. Good oral hygiene is important to avoid and prevent tonsil stones.
People with large or recurring tonsil stones may want to speak to their doctor. In some such cases, surgery may be needed to remove the stones or even the tonsils.