What Is a Tonsil Stone and How Can You Remove Them?
Have you ever heard of tonsil stones? If so, you’re going to get some help dealing with them. If not, they are a medical condition that is more common than you might think. They’re usually not a huge deal, and because of that, awareness is low, and tonsil stones go unnoticed more often than not. We’re going to avoid pictures and graphic stuff today. Tonsil stones can be much grosser than they are dangerous. Ultimately, you’ll know how to prevent them, treat them, recognize and otherwise make sure they’re never a major problem in your life.
What Is a Tonsil Stone?
Let’s start at the beginning. Basically, a tonsil stone is a hard formation that can show up on your tonsils. It would usually be white or yellow in color, and in many cases, it goes completely unnoticed by a person who has it. Sometimes, it can be more severe and cause health problems. Regardless of severity, tonsil stones can smell pretty bad, so that’s worth noting.
Causes of Tonsil Stones
So how do you get a tonsil stone? Well, your tonsils are made up of flesh, and they’re exposed to raw air. That’s a combination of conditions that allows bacteria and other microbes to be alive and well on your tonsils. It might be gross to think about, but in most cases, it’s perfectly healthy.
The issue is that between you and the microbes, there’s a lot of biological waste that can build up in the nooks and crannies of your tonsils. Again, it sounds grosser than it usually is. But, when that waste buildup gets stuck and hardens, the result is a tonsil stone.
Knowing this root cause, you can see why the risks of getting stones increase with poor dental hygiene. Those risks also go up if you have large tonsils, if they get inflamed often, or if you have bad or chronic sinus problems.
Again, many tonsil stones don’t have any symptoms at all, and in those cases, they are rarely noticed. When mild symptoms do occur, they usually just include bad breath. Sometimes, you might get minor irritation in the throat.
As a case grows in severity, symptoms can include sore throat, ear pain, trouble swallowing, coughing, or swelling of the tonsil. If you’re having these issues and you can see tonsil stones, you might consider visiting a doctor.
Managing Tonsil Stones
There are three things to learn about managing tonsil stones. The first is prevention. When that fails, there are home remedies that have a good chance of working. When that’s not enough, a doctor can help, and we’ll look at the specific techniques they seem to prefer. Still, an ounce of prevention is worth an elephant of treatments. Isn't that right?
The biggest thing here is to clean your mouth. Brush your teeth twice a day. You already know this. Specifically, make sure you brush the back of your tongue. This clears out bacteria and prevents a major buildup.
Other prevention methods include giving up smoking, gargling with salt water, and drinking lots of water. That last one is the easiest. Every time you drink water, it clears away some of the microbes in the tonsils. If you do this often, it goes a long way to prevent stones.
If you have minor stones and they aren’t really causing you problems, you can try some home remedies. They’re all easy and harmless, so as long as you aren’t suffering, it’s a good first step to take. Just, don’t get too stubborn. Home remedies won’t always be enough. If any of these aren’t working, feel comfortable going to a doctor. In fact, later on, you’ll see exactly how easy and painless that can be.
Drink Some Vinegar
Whoa. Slow down there, big guy. Don’t go guzzling straight vinegar. You’ll regret it. Instead, dilute it with water and gargle it. The acid can help cleanse the bacteria and break up the stones. Whether or not you swallow when you’re done is up to you, so make up your own mind.
Much like vinegar, gargle with a strong salt solution. This can help break up the stones by oxidizing them and then clear them out. They even dissolve a little bit. However, when you gargle with salt water, don’t swallow. It won’t exactly harm you, but it’s kinda gross and it’ll make you super thirsty.
On the other hand, once you’re done gargling, you’ll want to drink some water. That’s good. Go ahead and do it.
A single treatment might not be enough to kill the stones. Feel free to try it for a few days and see if you notice a difference. If you can’t tell a difference after a week, then you need to escalate your attack.
We’re toeing the edges of grossness now. Sometimes, people only find out they have tonsil stones when they cough one up. The good news is that’s a decent way to clear them. Sometimes.
Do not cough yourself into a fit. You shouldn’t need to damage your throat or make your ribs sore just to dislodge a tonsil stone. Instead, do a little coughing and basic throat clearing. It works pretty well. If it doesn’t seem good enough, you can mix your coughing with gargling for better effect.
Seeing the Doctor
Ultimately, there are two times to see a doctor. The first, and most important, is if you’re getting real symptoms from the stones. Skip the home remedies and get real help. It’s important. The second time is if the home stuff doesn’t work. The doctor has some good and powerful techniques to set you right. The good news is that most of these treatments are minimally invasive. They won’t leave you in misery. Recovery time tends to be incredibly short. Usually, having tonsil stones treated by a doctor is nothing to make you sweat.
Some people list this as a home remedy, but that might come with liability problems. It’s pretty easy to agitate or damage your tonsils if you try to scrape them clean yourself. That said, doctors have the tools and skills to manually remove tonsil stones, and it’s a common practice. In fact, it’s not nearly as miserable as you might assume. They take a cotton swab or something comparable and simply pull the stones out.
That’s a fun name for a procedure. Basically, a doctor will use surgical lasers to pew-pew the stones out of your tonsils. More scientifically, the head from the lasers can break up the tonsil stones so they can be harmlessly washed away with water. Still, pew-pewing tonsil stones sounds kinda cool.
This is kind of like the laser method, but it uses radio waves and salt instead of heat. It’s super sci-fi, and if your insurance covers it, you should request this method just for the cool points.
Ok, more seriously, you should do what your doctor recommends. Coblation cryptolysis will put a salt solution on the stones. From there, radio waves are used to ionize the solution, giving it an electrical charge. With the charge particles, the stones start to dissolve. Basically, it’s a hi-tech version of gargling salt water. But, it’s a lot cooler.
When tonsil stones get bad or persistent enough, it’s time to go for the permanent solution. This is the medical version of that classic meme. You can’t have tonsil stones without tonsils.
It’s important to remember that a tonsillectomy is surgery. There’s recovery time. It’s typical to be put completely under anesthesia. That makes it a much more invasive treatment than the others, and that is why it’s a last resort.
That’s it. If you think you need to know more about tonsil stones, it might be time to get started on that medical degree.