Do you dread bad breath? Perhaps it is something you’ve struggled with in the past, or something that haunts you still today. Bad breath can be extremely embarrassing when talking face-to-face with others, or when going for a kiss with your partner.
Oral hygiene is a major factor in bad breath, but sometimes people with great oral hygiene (who brush twice daily, floss, and even brush their tongue) are still plagued by halitosis. One possible explanation may be tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths.
Tonsilloliths are relatively common. They form when bacteria and other debris collect in the folds of your tonsils. These “collections” are then attacked by white blood cells. Most of the time these hard particles are swallowed, but some may remain on the tonsils and get trapped.
When these hard particles get trapped, they will slowly get bigger, and may cause symptoms such as bad breath or a sore throat. On occasion, stones may become dislodged and either be swallowed, or get spit out.
Many tonsil stones are small , symptom-free, and don’t require any treatment. If tonsil stones are causing symptoms, there are several at-home treatments you can use, including gargling with salt water or using a blunt pick or cotton swab to dislodge the stone (if visible). For larger, more painful stones, your doctor may advise antibiotics or surgical removal.
Good oral hygiene can help minimize your risk of forming tonsilloliths. Brush and floss regularly, and incorporate an alcohol-free mouthwash. Gargling after meals may help ensure no debris is collecting on the tonsils, as well. Although good oral hygiene will help minimize the probability of tonsil stones, those who have chronic inflammation, especially of the tonsils, are more likely to develop the stones.
If you believe you have tonsil stones, and good oral hygiene does not seem to be helping, discuss possible courses of action with your doctor.