causes of tonsil stones

When you hear the word stones in reference to a health issue, your mind probably goes straight to kidney stones. That is, unless you’re one of many who experience the pain and discomfort of tonsil stones.

Some people are more susceptible to getting recurring tonsil stones than others, and they most commonly affect those who have chronic inflammation in their tonsils. Keep reading to learn exactly why you are experiencing tonsil stones and what you can do to prevent them from coming back.

Common Causes of Tonsil Stones

Your tonsils are filled with nooks and crannies where bacteria can become trapped easily. As a result, the bacteria and debris combines to create a white pus formation in the pockets, and tonsil stones form when the trapped debris hardens.

Common causes include:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Viral infections
  • Streptococcus bacteria
  • Adenoviruses
  • Influenza virus
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Enteroviruses

What Symptoms Should I Look For?

While the main symptom of tonsillitis is inflammation and swelling of the tonsils, there are a few other symptoms to watch for if you think you are experiencing tonsil stones including:

  • Persistent bad breath
  • Sore throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Earaches and ear pain
  • Ongoing cough
  • Swollen tonsils
  • White or yellow debris on the tonsils

Is there a way to prevent tonsil stones from forming?

Tonsil stones are most commonly found in people who experience chronic tonsillitis. The most effective way to prevent both tonsil stones and tonsillitis is to have your tonsils surgically removed. A tonsillectomy removes the tissues of the tonsils entirely, and in trade, eliminates all possibilities of further health issues with your tonsils.

Undergoing a tonsillectomy typically leaves patients with difficulty swallowing and a sore throat for a few days to a week after the procedure. Once the patient is healed, they will no longer experience pain and discomfort from tonsil infections.

Can I improve tonsil stones at home?

If you have tonsil stones, they may reoccur on a regular basis if you do not have your tonsils surgically removed. There are a few preventative steps you can take to keep them from returning including:

  • Improve your oral hygiene habits.

Practicing good oral hygiene at home, including cleaning the bacteria off the back of your tongue with a toothbrush when you brush your teeth.

  • Stop smoking.

Eliminating smoking or use of other tobacco products that could be creating the bacteria in your throat that is causing you to have tonsil stones.

  • Gargling.

Gargling vigorously with a salt water rinse can ease throat discomfort and may also help dislodge the tonsil stones that are stuck. Try dissolving ½ teaspoon of table salt in a cup with 8oz of warm water and gargle.

  • Hydrate.

Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water can keep tonsil stones from forming. Water can also increase natural saliva production and help to change the chemistry in your mouth.

  • Cough.

Energetic coughing can help to loosen stones. Try coughing after first gargling salt water when the stones have been loosened with liquid.

  • Antibiotics.

The use of antibiotics can help to lower the bacteria count that plays a crucial role in the development and growth of future tonsil stones. Antibiotics should not be used as a long-term solution however, because they will not treat the underlying cause of the stones.

Are tonsil stones harmful to my health?

Sure, they might be uncomfortable and annoying, but how can you tell whether they should receive professional attention? It comes down to the size and location of the stone, as well as your discomfort level.

When in doubt, check in with your dentist and discuss whether you should consider having your tonsils removed. If you experience chronic tonsil infections and tonsil stones, a tonsillectomy could be the answer to your recurring pains.