Have you ever noticed a popcorn-like, small, white or yellow lump at the back of your throat? Do you often have to face embarrassing situations because of bad breath? Or you feel severe pain while eating your favorite delicacies? If YES? Then, you might be suffering from tonsil stones or tonsilloliths.
There are chances that you haven’t heard anything about these creepy stones. Because this isn’t any interesting topic to discuss with your friends or colleagues over a cup of coffee.
But, don’t be anxious or feel ashamed of it. As we’re here to answer most of your queries regarding it.
What Are Tonsil Stones?
Tonsilloliths or Tonsil Stones are basically clusters of calcified material that form in our tonsils. They mostly occur in the palatine tonsils, but they may also develop in the lingual tonsils.
These white spots on tonsils are basically composed of calcium. However, they may contain other minerals; like magnesium and phosphorus. Anaerobic bacteria also reside in them, which causes problems like bad breath.
Tonsil Stones Symptoms
Many of you who are suffering from small tonsil stones may not even know about it. The main reason for it – You may not observe any noticeable symptoms mentioned below.
Also, some of the people having large tonsil stones may not detect them. In fact, according to a 2007 study, French researchers found that tonsilloliths are mostly discovered incidentally on X-rays or CT scans.
1. Recurrent Bad Breath or Halitosis
If you’ve constant bad breath without any known reason, chances are you’re suffering from tonsil stones.
According to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 75 percent of people who had high amounts of sulfur compounds in their mouth were suffering from tonsil stones.
Sulfur compounds in your mouth are known to produce bad breath.
Halitosis due to tonsil stones are often misinterpreted as an issue of sore throat.
2. Visible White or Yellow Lumps
In some cases, where the size of the tonsil stone is large, it may be visible at the back of your throat as white or yellow lumps.
Some of you may not be able to see them as they’re often hidden in the folds of your tonsils or are very small. In these cases, tonsil stones may only be detected using non-invasive scanning techniques, like MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or CT scans.
NOTE: Some of you might not even know that you’ve tonsil stones because they can develop just BEHIND the tonsils.
3. Sore Throat
If these white spots on tonsils are big, they may cause pain or discomfort in your throat. Sometimes it can happen that tonsil stones and tonsillitis may occur simultaneously.
In this case, it can be really hard to determine whether your throat pain is caused by the tonsil stone or infection.
Do you want to learn more about sore throat? Then read my previous article here.
4. Trouble in Swallowing Food
Some of you may face difficulty in swallowing foods or liquids, depending on the size or location of the tonsil stone.
Well, this is frightening but it is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, not seriously wrong,but wrong.
If you experience something like this, then make sure to see your doctor who will check thoroughly for any tonsil stones.
Chances are your tonsil stones may actually be quite large because smaller ones don’t cause this problem.
Some people also have a metallic taste in their mouth when they have these unwanted stones..
5. Swelling & Inflammation of Tonsils
When tonsil stone forms, it may cause swelling and inflammation of your tonsils.
6. Pain In Your Ears
Many of you might be thinking how stone in your tonsils can cause pain in your ears. Well, the reason for this annoyance is the shared nerve pathways of ears and tonsils.
What Causes Tonsil Stones?
Your tonsils work like a sieve as they trap germs, bacteria, mucous and dead cells. When they get accumulated, it takes the shape of concentrated white stuff that occurs in the pockets. Tonsilloliths are made when this trapped material solidifies.
Here are some common causes of tonsil stones:
- You’re more likely to suffer from tonsilloliths if you have large tonsils.
- If you often suffer from dry mouth, it can increase your risk to develop white stuff in throat. Dry mouth allows anaerobic bacteria to thrive in your body.
- Poor dental hygiene is one of the major reasons that you suffer from tonsil stones.
- If you often eat sugary and processed foods, you’re likely to suffer from it.
- Tonsil stones may show up after strep throat.
You May Like Reading – 6 Simple & Effective Home Remedies for Tonsil Stones
Tonsil Stones Are Living Biofilms
You may not know that tonsil stones aren’t simply inert masses. Actually, they’re living biofilms that have been shown to respire nitrate and oxygen.
These are the findings of the research conducted by NCBI:
“Morphologically, tonsilloliths were similar to dental biofilms, containing corncob structures, filaments, and cocci. Microelectrodes showed that the microorganisms respired oxygen and nitrate. The oxygen concentration in the center of the tonsillolith was depleted to approximately one-tenth of that of the overlying fluid.”
Tonsil Stones Treatment Methods
Course of Antibiotics
Since anaerobic bacteria grow on tonsil stones, you can consider a course of antibiotics. Different antibiotics, like erythromycin or penicillin, may be used to treat tonsilloliths.
But, it has been found that antibiotics are not successful in reversing the primary cause of white stuff in throat. Food getting trapped in the tonsils is considered the primary cause of this annoyance.
Antibiotics can destroy the good bacteria in the mouth and gut that helps in combating the bad bacteria. So, consider this point before starting the course.
Caution: There may be a relapse after taking the course of antibiotics along with some side-effects.
This is a surgical procedure to get rid of white spots on tonsils by permanently removing your tonsils. Tonsillectomy should only be taken as a last resort when the symptoms start to adversely affect your daily routine.
Normally, this treatment is suggested when patients undergo repeated Tonsilloliths, swollen tonsils, persistent bad breath. If a person is having very large tonsil stones, swallowing food can become like eating sandpaper.
Depending on various conditions, your doctor may completely remove the tonsils or choose to perform a partial tonsillectomy.
The partial tonsillectomy is less painful and the patients who opt for this method experience faster recovery in comparison to the complete surgery.
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Tonsils are functional components of our immune system. It is strongly recommended not to remove the tonsils completely if they’re still in good shape.
In partial tonsillectomy, instead of removing the entire tonsil, only 90-95% of the tonsil is removed. The surgery is performed with a device called a microdebrider.
A thin layer of outer tonsil tissue, also known as capsule, is left to keep delicate throat muscles from being exposed. These muscles are protected to reduce pain and postoperative bleeding.
However, it has a downfall, leaving some tonsil tissue behind means giving it a chance to grow back and you’ll require a second surgery.
This is a tonsil stone removal medical treatment involving two different techniques- laser and coblation, to remove the white stuff in throat.
Laser cryptolysis is performed with targeted laser light and done to target a specific area of the tonsils. With this treatment, only the crypt in which tonsil stones are formed are removed.
Coblation cryptolysis is often performed when the entire surface area of the tonsils needs to be treated rather than a specific section. It’s a controlled, non-heat driven process which relies upon the use of electrical energy.
Both the procedures are far less painful than tonsillectomy or the surgical ablation of the tonsils. Also, these methods can be performed with local anesthetic only. In most cases, there is no need to intubate patients.
This method is less painful and the recovery process is shorter than the tonsillectomy. Patients who undergo cryptolysis can resume their normal diets and activities within a week.
However, this treatment has only short-term effects and the white spots on tonsils may annoy you in the coming future. In this process tonsil tissues are left behind because as it only removes the tonsil crypt from where the stones are developed.
Tonsil Stone Prevention Strategies
You must have heard that prevention is better than cure. But, most of you might not have followed this approach. Even I used to be like this.
If you don’t want to suffer from tonsil stones, you can follow some tips to prevent developing them in the first place.
Here is what you can follow to prevent tonsil stones:
- Don’t forget to clean your tongue using a tongue cleaner after brushing teeth. This will remove bacteria that may build up at the back of your tongue.
- Never let food to stick around your teeth. You can achieve this by brushing your teeth after meals so that the food debris cannot be trapped between your teeth. You can also use floss to remove it.
- Gargle with warm salt water as it’ll help to disinfect your mouth. It also helps in removing bacteria that could cause tonsilloliths. Repeat this 3-4 times a day.
- You should increase your water intake as it’s a good way to prevent tonsil stones by keeping your mouth moisturized.
- Try to stay away from sugared drinks likes cold drinks and sodas because they can contribute to the development of tonsilloliths.
- You should avoid smoking cigarettes and drinking liquor as much as you can. Since alcoholic drinks are diuretic, it can leave your mouth dry. If you frequently experience tonsil stones, you should abstain yourself from getting intoxicated.
- Try to consume less dairy products as they promote calcium and mucus accumulation, which are known causes of Tonsil Stones.
Tonsil Stones are really a nuisance and getting rid of them can be really difficult. Following home remedies for it may help you to remove them for a shorter period.
They may again develop after a while because home remedies don’t work on the root cause of Tonsilloliths.
The best thing to prevent them occurring again is to follow the precautions mentioned above. If any home remedy has really worked for you, you can share that with other readers in the comments.
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