Tonsil stones also referred to as Tonsilloliths are nothing but calcified food debris which get calcified and get trapped in the tonsil crypts. They are whitish or yellowish in color and have a bad taste and an even horrible fowl smell (disgusting isn’t it?). They are produced by the tonsils and eventually pop out of the crypts. It is very commonly seen in people suffering from chronic inflammation and repeated tonsillitis as well as sore throat. They usually do not grow to a very large size and can be seen in any age group.(source: tonsilstonesadvisor)
- Bad breath
- Whitish globule in the back of the throat- Tonsil swelling- Sore throat- Ear pain
Although they are not life threatening in any manner, they must be removed to in turn get rid of all the problems associated with them.
SO HOW DO WE GET RID OF THESE TONSIL STONES?
There are plenty of methods to get rid of tonsilloliths. Lets discuss them briefly -
A) Home treatment
1. Gargling Gargling is essential to maintain oral hygiene. It must be done after meals so that if there is any food debris in the mouth then they do not get stuck to the tonsils and further avoiding the occurrence of tonsil stones. Salt water gargles have proven to be very effective for dislodging the tonsil stone. Oxygenating mouthwashes hinder bacterial growth and gargling with these will have a double action on the stones.
2. Use of a Q-tip, Cotton swab, toothbrush head or your finger. After providing adequate illumination, take the Q-tip and apply gentle pressure on the base of the tonsils and flick it upwards. This will cause the stones to just pop right off and then they can be spit off or removed with a tweezer, from the oral cavity. Care must be taken not to apply too much pressure as it will hurt you tonsils and cause pain.
3. Oral irrigators These irrigators are placed in the mouth without touching the stone itself and are turned on at the lowest speed. They are directing in the direction of the stones and thus aids in the steady and gentle removal of the stone
4. Coughing Energetic coughing can cause the stones to loosen up. It exerts pressure on the tonsils and causes dislodgement of the stone from the crypt.
5. Antibiotics The effectiveness of antibiotics is debatable in case of tonsil stones. it may or may not be effective in treating them.
B) SURGICAL TREATMENT
If none of the above measures work, or if the stones are large and hurting you enough to not let you take them out yourself then surgical intervention becomes necessary. This line of treatment is the most effective and recurrence of tonsil stones is very rare after surgical treatment. Three procedures can be done for the removal.
1. Laser tonsil cryptolysis Done when there are small spots of globs of stones which require treatment. Here a carbon dioxide laser beam is used to remove a part of the tonsil. It can be done under local anesthesia and is an out patient procedure. Although, there can be tonsillar regrowth and recurrence with this treatment and the patient has a burning sensation amidst the procedure.
2. Coblation cryptolysis In this procedure, radio waves transform salt solution into charged ions which can cut through the tissue. This too can be done under local anesthesia and is an out patient procedure but in terms of pain, it is less painful than laser cryptolysis and the burning sensation is absent as well. There can be recurrence but it is highly improbable and is the only known treatment to cure nearly 100% cases of tonsil stones.
3. Tonsillectomy Pretty much the last resort procedure. If absolutely no other treatment works then tonsillectomy is done. The tonsils are completely removed with the help of a scalpel or a laser.