Tonsil stones, also referred to as tonsilloliths, are small growths in the mouth that occur in the tonsils. They are stony deposits primarily formed by calcified debris. They are not easy to notice and most people with tonsil stones, especially small ones, will have no symptoms. They vary in size, ranging from pebble-size to those as large as grapes. Tonsil stones appear as white spots on the surface of the tonsils. Often the tonsils are red and swollen. The occurrence is not limited to unhealthy or people with poor oral hygiene, anyone can get tonsil stones. They rarely, if ever, lead to serious health complications.
Tonsils are small organs that play an important role in your body’s immune system. They are considered to be lymph nodes in the oral cavity. Serving as tiny centers of immune activity, bacteria, debris, and other immune reactive materials are trapped high. Considering that the mouth is constantly being exposed to foreign materials and suffering trauma, when eating or brushing, the immune cells in the oral cavity are quite busy. In addition, there are many bacteria species that are native to the mouth and considered normal. These also tend to go rogue but tonsils play a vital role in keeping them at bay.
Tonsil removal, referred to as, tonsillectomy is a common procedure. It is done for various medical reasons including obstructive sleep-related breathing disorders such as sleep apnea, recurrent tonsillitis, aphthous stomatitis, adenitis, pharyngitis, peritonsillar abscess, and suspected malignancy. Most tonsils, where necessary, are removed in childhood. Recurrent tonsil stones that disturb the patient can also necessitate tonsillectomy.
Presentation of Tonsil Stones
Some tonsil stones are symptomless and are hard to notice. The most common presentation is bad breath. Though it might seem trivial to some, bad mouth odor can be a cause of great distress to a person. Other common symptoms are sore throat and difficulty swallowing.
Good oral hygiene
The easiest way to prevent tonsil stones is to practice proper oral hygiene. Brush at least twice a day including before bed. Use the right toothbrush and the right technique. Do not be aggressive when brushing as this injures your gums and palate. Tonsil stones can also be removed using a toothbrush or cotton swap. Instead of having to deal with the actual tonsilloliths, it is best to prevent them by simply brushing often and correctly. Flossing is also important in maintaining good oral hygiene. Another good measure is gargling after meals to ensure there is no accumulation of debris. Keep up with routine visits to the dentist’s office. Removing dental plaques and any other debris that the dentist will notice will reduce the amount of material available to lodge in the tonsils. Treating any infections or inflammation that occurs in the mouth such as gingivitis and tooth decay will significantly help in reducing the probability of tonsil stones forming.
If good oral hygiene is not enough to prevent recurrence of tonsil stones, it is time to surgically remove the tonsils, tonsillectomy. Surgery may sound scary to most of us. That is expected and normal. There is nothing wrong with fearing someone cutting you up and removing a part of your body. Other risks such as anesthetic complications may make surgery seem as the worst option. It is therefore important that you do a risk-benefit analysis. In most cases, there is more to gain if you get the courage to go ahead.
Consult a qualified ear, nose, and throat surgeon about the need for tonsillectomy and how best to go about it. If done by trained and qualified personnel, tonsillectomy is a relatively straightforward operation. Instead of constantly visiting your doctor’s office, you can be permanently relieved by having a tonsillectomy done.
Managing Oral Health to Prevent Tonsil Stones
Many people may not realize that there is a correlation between good oral health and the health of your tonsils or sinuses or throat. The mouth is an important part of the body and all its components are closely linked. Visit our dentists today and we will counsel you on how to improve your oral health. Where there is need for intervention, we will do a safe procedure with minimal disruption to your life.