What are tonsil stones?

oral hygiene

Have you ever felt like you’ve got bad breath but can’t for the life of you figure out why? You brush your teeth regularly and try to eat a healthy diet but for some reason you still feel quite self conscious about the way your breath smells.

What do they look like?

It’s possible you have tonsil stones! Tonsil stones, also known as tonsilloliths, are small, hard lumps that can form in the back of your throat inside your tonsils. Your tonsils are glands and their job is to protect you from infection. Because of where they are located (towards the back of the throat) they are useful for stopping germs and bacteria that enter through your mouth and nose from getting further into your body and causing problems. But sometimes minerals and debris get caught up in the folds of the tonsils (tonsillar crypts) and begin to build up over time. This debris can harden, or calcify, and becomes tonsil stones. This occurs more commonly in people with enlarged tonsillar crypts, and it is more common in adults than in children. Tonsil stones can also form in the presence of bacteria and fungi during a bout of tonsillitis. Tonsil stones are not harmful and often don’t need any treatment.

So, how do you know if you have tonsil stones?

Tonsil stones are usually very small, around 1-2mm across. They can be larger, in some people up to 1cm, however this is not common. In some cases people have no symptoms and the tonsil stones don’t cause any amount of fuss. For other people though the main symptom is bad breath. You can also end up with an awful taste in your mouth, especially if one of the stones comes loose! Other symptoms include sore throat, earache and cough, and it may be hard to swallow or feel as though there is something lodged in your throat. If you grab a torch, open up wide and look at your tonsils in the mirror, you may be able to see little white sections on your tonsils. If you’d like to get this checked over and get a proper diagnosis you can ask your GP or dentist to take a look for you.

What do you do if you have them?

If you do have tonsil stones and they are causing you to have bad breath it is important to make sure your oral hygiene is up to scratch. Our friendly team here at Tindale Dental Centre in Penrith can chat with you about your brushing and flossing routine, and go over any dietary changes that may be helpful for you. They can also give your teeth and gums a good once over and make sure there’s nothing else going on. Some people choose to gargle warm salt water to discourage bacteria and help minimise infection when they have a sore throat. This can be helpful for dislodging tonsil stones. Some people choose to dislodge them by pressing gently on the tonsils with a swab, however great care should be taken if you attempt this as the tissues inside your mouth and throat are delicate and you risk causing damage or infection if using improper tools or technique. If your tonsil stones are particularly problematic, surgery is an option and it is best to discuss this with an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT).

Our experienced dentists are always happy to discuss any queries or concerns you may have. You can make an appointment today by calling (02) 4726 5400.