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How to Manage tonsil Stones

Managing tonsil stones can be as invasive as having your entire tonsil removed, or as passive as sleeping with your mouth closed. Success in management is largely dependent on the underlying cause of the condition. A number of factors can contribute to their development, and so, addressing those causes can help in the long term management of the condition.

The simplest way to get rid of tonsil stones is to manually remove them whenever they appear, or when they become troublesome. Abrasive tools such as cotton swabs or oral picks can be effective, though also risk damage to the sensitive tissue surrounding the stone. Rigorous movements of the tongue can also sometimes dislodge a troublesome stone. Other options for manual removal of tonsil stones include oral irrigators, electric tooth brushes and saline mouth washes.

While manual remove is certainly the most simple, addressing the underlying cause of tonsil stones is ideal. Figuring out the cause of your tonsil stones and treating it will both remove current stones and reduce, or potentially eliminate them all together in the future.

Proper oral hygiene is important for more than just your tonsils! A clean mouth is the foundation of a healthy body. Flossing and thoroughly brushing the teeth, gums, and tongue will remove debris from the mouth before it has a chance to adhere to the tonsils and begin forming into a stone. Gargling with an antiseptic dental wash will kill bacteria and fungus that would otherwise flourish in the tonsil cavities and lead to infection. If alcohol based washes are too irritating, there are a number of alcohol free commercial options available as well. There are also a number of essential oils which have been touted as beneficial for oral health: mint, witch hazel, clove, basil, tea tree, and aloe vera to name a few.

If you are your dentist’s favorite patient and you still struggle with tonsil stones, perhaps the cause lies elsewhere. Allergies, sinus infections, and other inflammations of the nasal cavity can all lead to both post-nasal drip and mouth breathing, two potential causes of tonsil stone development. Post-nasal drip is the drainage of mucous down the throat (that “gunky” feeling you get when you have a cold), this excess mucous can build up in the back of the throat and trap food and bacteria in the tonsils. Mouth breathing caused by congestion will also dry out the mouth which can damage the delicate lining of the mouth and throat. Saliva is the mouth’s first defense against germs, and when the mouth is dry, saliva can’t effectively do it’s job. There are a number of nasal sprays which can free up airways, reduce inflammation, and thin out mucous. If you find yourself sleeping with your mouth open, nasal strips applied to the bridge of the nose can also help open your airway and encourage nose breathing.

Dry mouth can also be caused by the foods you eat and the fluids you drink. Drinking lots of water and keeping yourself well hydrated is, perhaps, the most important step in managing a dry mouth. Drinks and foods that are high in sugar or salt will dry out the mouth, conversely sucking on items like sugar free popsicles or hard candies will stimulate saliva production. Caffeine and alcohol are both diuretics, they cause the body to process water more quickly, and therefor, can lead to dehydration. If you are prone to dry mouth, avoiding foods and drinks which exacerbate the condition can potentially help you get rid of those pesky tonsil stones.

If you feel that you have exhausted all of your at home options, it might be time to see a doctor about your tonsil stones. Since tonsil stones generally involve a large build up of bacterial or fungal growth, your doctor can potentially prescribe you a medication to fight these invasive organisms. Generally tonsil stones are more of an inconvenience than a health emergency, but in the rare case that these stones are becoming harmful there are more invasive options you can explore with your doctor. Surgical removal of tonsil stones is generally only recommended in cases of very large or severe stones. If you suffer from chronic or recurrent infections related to tonsil stones another surgical option is called laser cryptolysis. This is a procedure which smooths the grooves and crevices on the tonsil in which debris and bacteria tend to become trapped. Finally, the most invasive, but also the most effective treatment for tonsil stones is a tonsillectomy, that is, the surgical removal of the entire tonsil. With no tonsil, there is no surface for the stone to develop on and your condition will be permanently resolved.

Any surgical procedure should not be undertaken lightly, and often tonsil stones can be improved with just little lifestyle adjustment. If you have questions, concerns, are in pain, or think you may have an infection, a consultation with your doctor can help you decide on what method will work

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