Tonsil stones, also known as tonsilloliths, are calcifications that develop on the tonsils. If you have never encountered them before, it can be alarming for one of these to pop up in your mouth after coughing. These small formations, about the size of a grain of rice or a grape, are often harmless but can be unpleasant due to their effects on oral health.
What Causes Tonsil Stones?
Tonsil stones are caused by an imbalance of the oral microbiome, which can have various triggers. Poor oral hygiene can be a significant contributor, as bacteria and food particles can build up in the mouth and lead to the formation of tonsil stones. Mouth breathing, whether during the day or at night, can also contribute to the problem.
Deep crevices in the tonsils, which can trap food particles, can also cause tonsil stones. In addition, hormonal changes, such as those experienced during pregnancy, can also increase the likelihood of tonsil stone formation.
A diet that is too high in calcium without sufficient vitamins K2 and D3 can also contribute to the problems. This is because these vitamins play essential roles in calcium absorption and blood vessel calcification.
What Are The Symptoms?
Tonsil stones can cause various symptoms, including chronic bad breath or a sore throat. In addition, you may have difficulty swallowing. You may also feel ear pain, persistent cough, or swollen tonsils. In some cases, they can cause trouble swallowing, swollen tonsils, and trigger infections.
How to Get Rid of Tonsil Stones
Several at-home removal options are available if you suspect you have tonsil stones. Gargling with warm salt water can help to dislodge the stones. Additionally, you can use water flossers and cotton swabs to remove them. Coughing can also help to loosen and dislodge tonsil stones.
However, there are some instances where seeing a dentist or doctor may be necessary. For example, if your tonsils are different sizes, there is blood in your saliva, or you experience problems swallowing, speaking, or breathing, you should seek professional medical attention.
Pain, swelling, lumps in the neck, or severe pain in the mouth or throat may also indicate the need for professional care. In some cases, persistent or painful tonsil stones may require antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs.
How to Prevent Tonsil Stones
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent the formation of tonsil stones. Brushing your teeth twice daily, remineralizing toothpaste, scraping your tongue, and flossing are all effective ways to maintain good oral hygiene.
A nutrient-dense diet low in sugar and processed foods can also help prevent the formation of tonsil stones. It is also essential to see your dentist at least twice a year for regular cleanings and to avoid smoking or vaping.