Tonsil Stone Removal: What Actually Works?

Tonsil Stone Removal: What Actually Works?
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Table of Contents

  1. Tonsil Stones Self-Removal
  2. Tonsil Stones Home Remedies
  3. Tonsillectomy
  4. Chronic Halitosis or Other Symtpoms
  5. References

The best way to remove tonsil stones is with a solid oral hygiene routine. Rinse with mouthwash or warm saltwater a few times daily, and this will typically remove the tonsil stones over time.

If this isn’t effective, you may need to have very large or bothersome tonsil stones surgically removed. But surgical removal is very rare.

Can I Remove Tonsil Stones?

If you struggle with ongoing bad breath, you may try a wide range of remedies, from chewing gum and using mouthwash to adding extra steps to your oral hygiene routine and even adjusting your diet.

While you are doing your best to keep your teeth, gums, tongue, and jaw healthy, you may still find that you have bad breath, especially when you wake up in the morning. This can be very frustrating, but there may be one underlying cause you have not considered: tonsil stones.

Tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths, are common, and they typically have no disruptive symptoms. About 8 percent of people develop tonsil stones.

When you look in a mirror and open your mouth, you can look toward the back of your throat and perhaps see a few whitish specks; these may be tonsil stones.

Many people never even know they have tonsil stones. They could have instances of bad breath, or they may even experience a temporary sore throat, but they don’t know the cause.

Tonsil stones usually dislodge on their own and require no treatment. In rare cases, you need to manage them, especially if your dentist has determined that tonsil stones are the cause of your halitosis. It is unlikely that you will need any invasive procedures since home remedies are often effective at dislodging the stones, but sometimes, surgical procedures are needed to remove chronic or large tonsil stones.

Home Remedies for the Removal of Tonsil Stones

You are not likely to even need home remedies to manage tonsil stones. If you do find you frequently develop them, and they affect the smell of your breath or even cause an uncomfortable sore throat or earache, you can typically manage tonsil stones on your own, at home.

Here are some options for removing tonsil stones at home:

home remedies for tonsil stones
Warm Saltwater

Gargling with warm saltwater can help to alleviate pain from a sore throat, earache, sinuses draining from allergies, a cold, or tonsil stones. Water should be warmer than room temperature, but not hot. Adding salt provides some antimicrobial properties, which can remove bacteria that may cause tonsil stones.

Vigorous gargling once or twice per day can dislodge the tonsil stones and alleviate other underlying causes of bad breath.

Mouthwash
Using an over-the-counter mouthwash, particularly one that is alcohol-free, can help to alleviate bad breath immediately, and it can also potentially dislodge tonsil stones. You can add some water to a little mouthwash to reduce the sting of alcohol or menthol in the product if you are concerned about the sensation in your mouth. Do not swallow the mouthwash, but spit it out after vigorously gargling.
Apple Cider Vinegar

Diluting some apple cider vinegar with warm or room temperature water can create a good mouth rinse that will help to dislodge tonsil stones. The acidity of the vinegar can also help to break down tonsil stones.

However, do not consistently use apple cider vinegar as a tonsil stone removal treatment. Vinegar can be corrosive and may cause tooth decay or digestive problems.

Good Oral Hygiene
Tonsil stones can form because of food particles and bacteria in your mouth. While you do not need to use any special tools to reach your tonsils, brushing your teeth twice per day and flossing between your teeth will help to keep bacteria at bay and remove stubborn food particles that you cannot rinse out. Adding a mouth rinse can cover immediate bad breath, but it is not required.
Consult with your dental provider when tonsil stones are large, causing you excessive pain, or are blocking your throat or airway.

If you are prone to tonsil stones, regular gargling with a mouthwash or warm saltwater can keep them from causing halitosis or other symptoms. If you experience ongoing or worsening symptoms, get in touch with your doctor. Potential issues may include:

  • You have symptoms of tonsil stones but do not see any.
  • Only a portion of the tonsil stone is removed with home treatment.
  • Your tonsils become red, swollen, and painful.
  • You feel pain after removing the tonsil stone at home.

Tonsillectomy to Remove Tonsil Stones

Sometimes, people who develop a large, irritating tonsil stone or consistent and painful tonsil stones consult their doctor for other options. When home remedies are not enough, your doctor or dentist may recommend surgically removing your tonsils, known as a tonsillectomy.

Tonsillectomies are most common in children who develop tonsillitis, an infection of the tonsils. However, sometimes adults have their tonsils removed too.

One medical theory suggests that chronic, bothersome tonsil stones are an effect of having several bouts of tonsillitis. The presence of tonsillitis or similar symptoms could be caused by tonsil stones as well.

A tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure that requires general anesthesia. You will be monitored in the hospital or surgery center as the anesthesia wears off, but you can typically go home the same day. Recovery takes between one and two weeks.

During the first week, try to avoid activities involving too many people, as your risk of infection is higher than normal. You should be able to return to normal activities like work or school quickly after the procedure.

If you have any ongoing issues once you return home, like a continuing sore throat, swallowing frequently, or bleeding, call your doctor as soon as possible. These complications are very rare. With some relaxation and soft foods, you are well on your way to recovery. Be sure to go to any follow-up appointments your doctor sets for you after the procedure.

Contact Your Doctor About Chronic Halitosis or Other Symptoms

Struggling with tonsil stones can be frustrating, but it is important to avoid using tonsil stone removal kits with devices that reach into the back of your throat. Do not use a toothbrush or cotton swab to reach the back of your throat to dislodge the stones, as you could injure yourself.

If you cannot remove tonsil stones by gargling with a mouth rinse, either homemade or store bought, visit your doctor to get appropriate treatment.

Your dentist may notice the formation of tonsil stones. In some instances, this can indicate higher levels of bacteria in your mouth. This could suggest to your dentist that you need more dental cleanings, may have an underlying infection like gingivitis, or need an additional step in your oral hygiene routine.

In general, tonsil stones rarely affect your daily life. You probably will not notice that you have them at all. If you have concerns about bad breath or pain around your throat or jaw, which is not related to another illness like an ear infection, speak with your doctor for a diagnosis and recommendations.

References

Tonsil Stones. (November 2020). HealthDirect.gov.au. Date fetched: May 27, 2021.

What You Should Know About Tonsil Stones. (July 2018). Medical News Today. Date fetched: May 27, 2021.

Ask the Dentist: Tonsil Stones Might Be the Cause of Your Bad Breath. (April 2019). The Irish News. Date fetched: May 27, 2021.

How to Get Rid of Tonsil Stones. (March 2019). Medical News Today. Date fetched: May 27, 2021.

Tonsillectomy. (May 2021). MedlinePlus. Date fetched: May 27, 2021.

A Giant Tonsillolith. (April 2018). Saudi Medical Journal.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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