Like many oral care problems, tonsil stones affect millions of Americans. Even though tonsil stones can be burdensome to deal with, in most cases they can be reduced or eliminated simply by taking extra steps to reduce plaque.
Tonsil stones are hard masses that form inside folds of tissue located in the back of the throat (the tonsils). Tonsil stones are whitish-yellow in color and have a pungent, foul odor that contributes to bad breath.
The average size of a tonsil stone is around the size of a BB or small pea. Upon reaching this size, they often become dislodged while coughing or breathing heavily.
- Bad breath
- A feeling that something is stuck in the back of your throat
- Pressure or pain in your ears
- Difficultly swallowing
- Sore throat
Sometimes it's possible to see tonsil stones using a mirror. They will be located in the back of the throat towards either side. However, if they are lodged deep inside the tonsils they are not always visible.
What Causes Tonsil Stones To Form
Most often, oral plaque is responsible for tonsil stone formation. Oral plaque is a biofilm composed of millions of microscopic bacteria that continually multiply, spreading throughout the mouth.
The spread of plaque, if not disrupted, will form layers that coat parts of the teeth, tongue and gumline. Underneath these layers of plaque are pockets of low-oxygen environments where anaerobic bacteria thrive, also reaching millions in number.
When there are high populations of plaque-associated bacteria present in the mouth, there are also high amounts in the saliva. There are untold billions more bacteria that are swallowed each day when oral plaque is present compared to when it is not.
As saliva travels down the throat, the tonsils act as a bacteria filter. If the tonsils become overwhelmed with bacteria, the bacteria can accumulate in the tonsils, clumping together along with various debris. The clumps eventually harden, forming tonsil stones.
Connection With Bad Breath
Tonsil Stones are connected with bad breath for two main reasons:
1. The plaque-associated bacteria that grows on the tongue, teeth and gum-line (the main cause of tonsil stone formation) include a type of bacteria classified as gram-negative anaerobic bacteria. These bacteria are known to release Volatile Sulfur Compounds (VSC's)– otherwise known as bad breath.
2. Because tonsil stones are partially made up of gram-negative anaerobic bacteria, tonsil stones themselves release VSC's.
While tonsil stones themselves release VSC's, they are often not the root cause of bad breath, or it's largest contributor. Usually, the plaque-associated bacteria growing on the tongue, teeth and gum-line are responsible for most VSC's.
Tonsil Stone Removal
Tonsil stones often become dislodged on their own but in some cases might need to be removed. The following methods may be tried.
- Gargle with salt water.
- Carefully use a cotton swab to free them.
- Use a water flossing device on a low setting to gently wash the stones out.
- Visit a dentist or ENT Doctor for removal.
How to Prevent Tonsil Stones
Since tonsil stones originate from plaque growth on the tongue, teeth and gum-line¹, reducing plaque-associated bacteria in these areas is key to preventing tonsil stones. This can be accomplished using the methods below.
Tongue Scrape Daily
When not cleaned regularly, a thick layer of plaque can form on top of the tongue, creating low-oxygen environments within the nooks and crannies of the tongue's sponge-like tissue underneath. These nooks and crannies make perfect spots for anaerobic bacteria growth.
Because of its large surface area and porous texture, the tongue is a perfect environment for bacterial growth, having the potential to be the single largest contributor to tonsil stone formation.
Even though the tongue can be problematic as far as bacteria growth, reducing bacteria on the tongue is not difficult with the help of a tongue scraper.
Tongue scrapers are tools designed specifically to remove the plaque layer on the surface of the tongue. Once this layer is removed, the anaerobic bacteria underneath will be exposed to oxygen and unable to survive.
Cleaning the tongue with a tongue scraper is a must for those with recurring tonsil stones.
Brush and Floss Daily
Brushing and flossing removes plaque, which consists of bacteria that multiplies exponentially. Plaque that is not removed daily will harden, forming tartar.
Tartar makes it more difficult to remove new plaque bacteria, aiding in the spread of plaque and leading to potential tonsil stone formation and other oral hygiene problems.
Individuals that keep plaque and tartar levels low through daily brushing and flossing typically have 1,000 to 100,000 bacteria living on each tooth surface, while mouths where plaque and tartar levels are high can have between 100 million and 1 billion bacteria on each tooth.
Plaque and tartar can also cause inflammation in the gums. When this happens, the gums will pull away from teeth and form pockets. Plaque then gets trapped in these pockets, adding billions more bacteria to the mouth's total population.
Since plaque grows exponentially and then hardens into tartar, and tartar makes it more difficult to remove plaque, brushing and flossing every day is very important.
Failure to brush and floss every day can enable bacteria levels to spiral out of control, leading to not only tonsil stones, but many other oral care problems.
Schedule a Dental Cleaning
As stated above, brushing and flossing every day will help prevent plaque growth and slow down tartar formation. However, it's still likely tartar may slowly accumulate. Therefore, professional dental cleanings every six months are a must.
At the dentist's office the hygientist will scrape off all tartar and examine the teeth, gums, tongue and tonsils.
Dental visits every six months will help make sure tartar growth is kept to a minimum and the mouth is in good condition. This will make it much easier to keep bacteria levels low in between dental visits, decreasing the risk of tonsil stone formation.
Use Amazing Breath for Guaranteed Results
Amazing Breath helps control bacteria populations responsible for tonsil stones in a very unique and effective way.
Plaque bacteria's food sources can be tricky to get rid of because they accumulate in tiny cracks and crevices around the mouth. These areas are difficult, if not impossible to reach by tooth brush, floss or tongue scraper. Store-bought oral hygiene products are typically formulated to address only the bacteria, not their food sources.
After brushing, flossing and tongue scraping, Amazing Breath's liquid formula will reach into the tiny cracks and crevices and oxidize microscopic food particles and organic debris. Without food sources, bacteria will be unable to multiply fast enough to reach the large populations that cause tonsil stones, bad breath and other oral hygiene problems.