Tonsil stones are one of those embarrassing problems that many people suffer, yet few talk about. This silence is understandable; harboring cheesy, sometimes calcified whitish globs in the back of the mouth really hinders someone’s self esteem. It doesn’t help that these things smell like a dying yeti’s crotch. Rotten eggs may be a more apt (and provable) comparison, seeing as tonsil stones produce various sulfur compounds. Besides suffering wicked halitosis, some people experience an annoying feeling in their throat, difficulty swallowing, sore throat, and swelling. However, many people experience no symptoms whatsoever…but read on just to be sure.
Tonsil stones form when food particles, dead cells, and gunk gets stuck in little nooks, fittingly called the tonsillar crypts. Unfortunately there is no horror story teller in these crypts, just possible issues. White blood cells attack these oral stowaways and the ensuing war leaves behind tonsil stones. Little else is known about them, save for the fact that some people are genetically predisposed and they more often afflict individuals with a history of tonsillitis. One thing all sufferers do know is that they must be dealt with. But don’t send toothpicks, paper clips, or just any household item after these things – the tonsils are comprised of extremely sensitive tissues. Below you can learn how to get rid of tonsil stones using safe, at-home remedies as well as more invasive medical treatments.
Best Ways to Prevent Tonsil Stones
Practice good oral hygiene
Stranded food particles and bacteria get tonsil stones started, so it makes sense to limit them as best you can.
Avoid cotton mouth
A dry mouth leads to an explosion in anaerobic bacteria, which may hasten the formation of tonsil stones. There are many solutions out there for nighttime mouth breathers, but if your cotton mouth is medication induced, you’ll have to talk to your doctor.
Avoid eating before bed
Don’t give bacteria any overnight fuel.
Gargle and rinse after meals
It’s a simple, practical way to keep debris away before it finds purchase in your tonsils.
Best Ways to Get Rid of Tonsil Stones at Home
Use a cotton swab or even your finger to remove tonsil stones. Using either your finger or a cotton swab, apply pressure to the lower part of your tonsil and, keeping pressure, move upwards. Oftentimes this will cause tonsil stones to pop out. Then you can savor both victory and the cadaver-like aftertaste of these pearls of peril.
Blast them out with water. Many people remove tonsil stones with oral irrigators (water picks) – normally used for cleaning teeth and gums. The powerful jets these devices produce can dislodge even the most stubborn tonsil stone. Whichever device you use, you’ll want to start out on the lowest setting, and pulsing streams work best. If this sounds too harsh, you may want to purchase an irrigation syringe with a curved tip or a large medicine dropper. First irrigate the offending area with warm salt water and then try to suck out the tonsil stone. However, if you do want to give the water pick a chance, you can get them online, like the Conair Sonic Water Jet sold at Amazon.
With a toothbrush
A soft-bristled toothbrush can aid in getting rid of tonsil stones. As I stated above, the tonsils are very delicate – getting rough could cause (or worsen) inflammation as well as cuts and bleeding. Gently massage the area around the tonsil stone. If you feel like you’ve loosened it or it’s broken up, gargle with salt water to see if you can flush out the rest. If you have an electric toothbrush, try massaging the area around the tonsil stone with the smooth, backside of the brush. These intense vibrations are sometimes enough to dislodge and break up tonsil stones.
With your tongue
Using your tongue and hard swallowing are safe, simple options. Tonsil stones set up camp in your tongue’s jurisdiction, and that libidinous muscle can help loosen or dislodge tonsil stones in time. Though it sounds too simple to be effective, swallowing hard has been known to remove tonsil stones. First, tighten your throat, then press your tongue against the roof of your mouth, and swallow. This motion lifts and puts pressure on the tonsils, which in turn causes tonsil stones to pop out of their festering nooks. Easy-peasy.
Salt water gargles and carbonated drinks may work in time. If you’d rather not touch your sensitive tonsils with anything (many people with tonsil stones suffer from tonsillitis) and your tongue and hard swallowing have proven ineffective, then this method is for you. Gargle twice to three times daily with warm salt water (1/2 teaspoon salt with 1 cup warm water), drink plenty of fluids, and work in some carbonated beverages like sparkling water, seltzer water, or club soda. The salt water gargle can help control swelling and bacteria, while the fizzy drinks can slowly eat away at the tonsil stone’s hold.
Getting Rid of Tonsil Stones with Medical Treatments
Sometimes tonsil stones can’t be reasoned with. When they are thought to be the cause of swelling, infection, or severe annoyance and at-home remedies haven’t worked, a doctor – more specifically an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) – can numb the area and scrape it out with minimal discomfort.
During cryptolysis, a doctor will reshape the geography of your tonsillar crypts using a CO2 laser. The pockets where tonsil stones flourished are closed. It should only be considered if tonsil stones are recurrent and causing problems.
Having your tonsils removed is the only way to permanently get rid of tonsil stones. It should not be considered lightly. Despite what is often written about this procedure, it can be extremely painful. A friend of mind recently had it done, and though he doesn’t regret it, he vowed that he’d rather be castrated on live television – on The View – than go through the ordeal again. And as you age, the potential for complications grows. But if you suffer from chronic tonsillitis and your tonsils are the source of constant misery, perhaps it’s time to consider having them out.
(Note: Some people have complained that they have had a tonsillectomy and yet still get tonsil stones. This may be because they’ve only had their palatine tonsils removed. Tonsil stones could still potentially form in the adenoids (pharyngeal tonsils), tubal, and lingual tonsils.)
Taking antibiotics may help get rid of tonsil stones for some, but it won’t combat viral tonsillitis or prevent stones from forming in the future.
More Tonsil Stone Remedies
Pain relievers and numbing agents, these sprays can help suppress the gag reflex while you’re mining for stinky white gems. People often require such aid the first few times they manually remove tonsil stones, but veterans get used to the process and rarely have issues.
Mouth breathing creates a dry environment in the mouth – perfect for the anaerobic bacteria found in tonsil stones. These cheap, simple sleep aids allow me to breathe easy at night as well as stay married.
The self-styled prophet of bad breath and author of The Bad Breath Bible, Dr. Harold Katz pushes a product line specifically for getting rid of tonsil stones. His website is cheesy and features an infomercial that reeks of scam; however, his products get decent reviews on a variety of reputable websites. It’s expensive, and you’ll have to keep using it to keep tonsil stones from forming. You can check the variety of the TheraBreath options over at Amazon.