Are you worried about some yellow-white stone-like things on your tonsils? Don’t worry here is all you need to know about tonsil stones (tonsilloliths) and how to get rid of them. There are three types of tonsils in the throat region, what we generally call tonsils are palatine tonsils (one at both sides of the throat) the other two are pharyngeal (at the back of your throat) tonsils and lingual (at the backside of your tongue) tonsils.
Do you have children at home? kindly check this tonsillitis in children articles to know more about it.
How tonsil stones are formed?
Tonsils play important role in our immune system. Structurally they have pockets on their surface that can easily lodge food particles, mucus, and other debris particularly in people with poor oro-dental hygiene. With time bacterial infection sets in especially in already inflamed tonsils and people with repeated tonsillitis attacks are more prone to it.
This debris then calcifies and hardens also small debris particles can join together and make a bigger tonsillar stone. With this sometimes the tonsils also become red and swollen with or without pain. There can be difficulty or pain as well while swallowing.
What are the symptoms of tonsilloliths or Tonsil Stones?
1. Foul breath/ halitosis
2. Pain/soreness in the throat
3. White/ yellow visible spots on tonsils
4. Difficulty or pain during swallowing
5. Swollen tonsils
6. Referred ear pain
7. Cough/ repeated throat clearing
Generally, tonsil stones are easily visible on examination, but in case of non-visualization and suspicion of stone, your doctor might ask for some investigations like MRI to spot them or to see their intra-tonsillar extension.
How can you get rid of Tonsil Stones?
The majority of them don’t need treatment, especially when they are smaller in size and without any symptoms or any pain. However, with these measures, you can remove them at home.
1. Saltwater gargle-
Warm water gargling may loosen them from their position and also may help in easing the pain. You can also use non-alcoholic mouthwash as well.
2. Gentle scrapping-
Under the vision, you can try gentle scaping with a cotton swab. After damping a swab, without touching the middle portion of your throat go to the back of your tonsil and sweep over the stone gently forward, do it only when you feel that the stone is within reach.
3. Low-pressure irrigation-
There are machines like water flosser (low pressure), regular use of which can prevent the formation of stones. During this, you should aim at the tonsils and also be careful that when stones come from the tonsil they should not fall in the back of your throat.
4. Apple cider vinegar(ACV) gargle-
ACV diluted in 1 cup of warm water can also be used as gargling, it’s effective at breaking down stones although it has its own side effects like digestive problems and decay of the tooth.
Sometimes a little forceful cough may also help in expelling or dislodging stones.
6. Diet rich –
A rich diet in foods that can help prevent bacterial infection in tonsils, e.g., garlic, yogurt, apple, carrots, and onions.
7. Dental hygiene –
Keep a check on dental hygiene, regular dental floss may help people with poor oro-dental hygiene or other conditions like dental caries.
We always say prevention is better the cure. A few steps are-
1. Keeping good oral hygiene.
2. Regular gargling, especially after meals.
3. Keeping yourself hydrated.
4. Protecting yourself from pollution also stopping smoking.
But here is it not always possible to avoid developing tonsillar stones, especially for people with repeated infections of tonsils. In them, tonsillectomy (removal of tonsils) may be the only way to prevent them.
Other measures to remove tonsil stones
1. Antibiotics- Can help fight active infection but not the cause itself.
2. Surgery- Tonsillectomy can be done in badly infected or repeatedly infected tonsils.
3. Cryptolysis- It is just like reshaping the tonsil surface and reducing the number of spaces where stones can form, done by using laser or radiofrequency tools.
However, tonsil stones are mostly harmless, but occasionally can give rise to severe pain or swallowing difficulty requiring a hospital stay.