You’ve heard of kidney stones, but have you ever heard of tonsil stones? If you have not, you’re not alone. According to our Calgary dentist, many patients are not even aware that they have tonsil stones, particularly if they are not causing any symptoms. Although tonsil stones do not usually pose any health risks, in certain circumstances they may need attention from your Calgary dentist or physician if they become too large or symptomatic. Sometimes, patients are not even aware that they even have tonsil stones. Our Calgary dentist explains tonsil stones and what you can do prevent and treat their sometimes bothersome symptoms.
WHAT ARE TONSIL STONES?
Tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths, are hard, roundish calcium deposits that form in the nooks and crevices of your tonsils. Your tonsils, which are small, soft, gland-like structures that sit on both sides of the back of your mouth, help to fight infection by producing white blood cells and antibodies. The tissue surrounding your tonsils has many crevices where food, bacteria and debris such as mucous and dead cells can become trapped. If this debris, food and bacteria is not removed, according to our Calgary dentist, in some people, these particles can bond together, harden and calcify and ultimately become stuck in the nooks of your tonsils.
WHAT CAUSES TONSIL STONES?
Tonsil stones are caused when debris such as food, mucous and dead cells become trapped in the nooks and crevices of the tissue of your tonsils. Once trapped, this debris can harden and calcify, forming usually small but sometimes quite large stones at the back of your mouth. Our Calgary dentist usually sees tonsil stones forming on one side of the mouth, but they can most certainly form on both tonsils.
WHO IS SUSCEPTIBLE TO TONSIL STONES?
Although anyone can get tonsil stones, our Calgary dentist most often finds that people who have recurrent cases of tonsillitis or chronic inflammation of their tonsils are more susceptible to having tonsil stones.
Additionally, tonsil stones are also common in teenagers and people who have a lot of crevices in the area of their tonsils.
According to our Calgary dentist, Dr. Dirk Thompson, some people will develop tonsil stones only once or twice in their lifetimes, whereas other patients are bothered by repeated occurrences of tonsil stones, sometimes with them developing as frequently as weekly.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF TONSIL STONES?
Sometimes you may have tonsil stones and not even be aware of them, particularly if they are small. Most tonsil stones seen by our Calgary dentist are relatively small in size, approximately one to three mm in diameter. Some tonsil stones do however, make their presence known with a variety of symptoms, even when they are small. According to our Calgary dentist, the most common symptoms of tonsil stones are as follows:
- Halitosis (Bad Breath). One of the most prevalent and bothersome symptoms of tonsil stones is bad breath, sometimes quite severe. Often, this symptom appears in conjunction with a tonsil infection.
- A Persistent Sore Throat. Although tonsil stones are not always painful, they can most definitely can cause pain in some people. Sometimes, this pain feels like a sore throat, and it is difficult to determine the cause of the soreness, particularly if you also suffer from tonsillitis. In this case, you should consult with your Calgary dentist and/or physician to determine the source of your pain or discomfort.
- Coughing or Difficulty in Swallowing. Sometimes tonsil stones can irritate the back of your throat and cause you to cough or even make it difficult or uncomfortable to swallow.
- Inflammation In Your Tonsils. The food, bacteria and other debris at the back of your mouth in the area of your tonsils, together with the tonsil stones themselves, may cause your tonsils to be become inflamed or infected.
- Pain in Your Ears. Because of the nerve pathways that are shared by both your throat and ears, it is possible that you may even feel pain in your ear when you have tonsil stones.
HOW DOES YOUR CALGARY DENTIST DIAGNOSE TONSIL STONES?
Because tonsil stones can be visible to the eye if they are large enough, our Calgary dentist can generally make a diagnosis of tonsil stones by doing an oral examination. Sometimes, the tonsil stones are very small or hidden in the folds and crevices of your tonsils and cannot be seen. In certain circumstances, such as where there are severe symptoms and tonsil stones are suspected to be the cause of the symptoms or pain, our Calgary dentist may refer you to your physician who may send you for additional imaging tests such as CT scan or an MRI.
HOW WILL MY DENTIST REMOVE THE TONSIL STONES?
If your tonsil stones are small, Dr. Dirk Thompson, our Calgary dentist, can remove them quite easily by simply scraping them off your tonsils with a probe. Most patients do not find this procedure to be painful and is tolerated very well.
Other forms of treatment for tonsil stones may include a course of antibiotics or even a tonsillectomy if your tonsil stones are large, severe or forming in conjunction with tonsillitis. If this is suspected, our Calgary dentist will refer you to a specialist for further evaluation and treatment.
HOW CAN I PREVENT TONSIL STONES?
According to our Calgary dentist, the best way to prevent tonsil stones is to ensure that you are maintaining a consistent daily oral healthcare routine. Make sure your brush your teeth and tongue thoroughly, at least twice per day and, if tonsil stones are a recurrent problem for you, after each time you eat as well. You should also floss your teeth at least once per day to help keep the bacteria levels at a minimum and remove all food and other particles from your teeth. You may also try to gargle with warm salt water after eating to prevent the build-up of food and other particles in your mouth. Additionally, you may wish to try using a water pick which can further rinse your mouth and remove debris. The water pick may also help to actually dislodge any tonsil stones that are at the surface of the tonsils.
If you suffer from chronic tonsillitis and have recurring tonsil stones, our Calgary dentist may recommend that your see your physician to discuss the possibility of having your tonsils removed.
If you have any questions about tonsil stones or any other area of dentistry including sedation dentistry, general dentistry, emergency dentistry or cosmetic dentistry, call our Calgary dental office in the heart of one of Calgary’s most beautiful communities, Kensington (Sunnyside and Hillhurst). Our Calgary dentist is always here to help you and answer any questions you may have. Call us today at 403.283.4252!
Sources: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/troublesome-tonsil-stones-causing-bad-breath; https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/tonsil-stones-tonsilloliths-treatment-and-prevention
This blog post written by our Calgary dentist, Dr. Dirk Thompson, D.D.S., is for informational purposes only. It is not to be taken or used as a substitute for dental, medical or other professional advice, treatment or diagnosis. Always ask your dentist, physician or other healthcare professional for advice before altering your diet or healthcare routine. Individual patient needs and oral healthcare concerns vary so please consult your dentist for more information about your specific dental health requirements.
Copyright 2021: Dirk A. Thompson Professional Corporation operating as Advance Your Health Dental. Dr. Dirk A. Thompson, D.D.S., is a general dentist in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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