The human body is an outstanding example of complex functioning systems, beautiful architecture, and amazing processes that are still not fully understood. For new medical students and for individuals affected by unusual medical conditions, the body is also a source of foreign words and sometimes surprising structures. One example is tonsillolith.
The word itself probably conjures up a mental combination of strange rock formations and red, swollen mouth. This imagined sight may not be too far from the bottom because another name for a tonsillolith is tonsil stones, and these painful structures are hard deposits that develop in and on the surface of the tonsils. To better understand stones, why they appear, and how best to prevent them, you have to understand the tonsils themselves.
Role of the Tonsils
Most people have two tonsils located at the back of their throat. These structures are similar to glands and appear to play an important role in protecting the body from infection. Tonsil material contains lymphocytes, cells that are active against infection.
Some experts describe the tonsils as a safety net, supposedly catching and trapping harmful viruses or bacteria before they spread further into the body. However, ongoing research seems to indicate that tonsils are not very effective at their jobs. Than protect body from harmful substances, it seems that the tonsils do indeed trap bacteria and other debris, then become inflamed, infected, and swell on their own.
Tonsil Stone Formation
Stones are just one example of a problem the tonsils seem to have. These stones develop when the spongy tissue of the tonsils fills with bacteria and other foreign and harmful substances. Dead cells, mucus, foreign debris, and bacteria mix together in the tiny crevices of the tonsils and then pack up into a dense white formation. The resulting structures are tonsil stones. These stones are more common in people who suffer from recurrent inflammation or infection of their tonsils, or in people with deep tonsil craters.
Common Remedies for Stones
For many people, tonsil stones come out naturally during eating, coughing and other activities. For others, however, stones can be irritating, smelly, and painful. For those who suffer this way, surgery may seem like a reasonable option. However, you can remove tonsilloliths at home.
- Start by gathering and disinfecting the equipment you plan to use. This may include bobby pins, cotton swabs and a mirror.
- Next, gargle with mouthwash to sterilize and numb the area.
- Use a mirror, and possibly a light source, to locate the stone in the tonsils.
- Flex your throat muscles and then use a bobby pin to gently pull the stone out or a cotton swab to scrape the stone out.
- Rinse your mouth with water as you work to loosen the buildup of saliva.
Even after clearing all the visible stones, you may find that the invisible stones bother you. If your mouth isn’t very sensitive right now, you might want to try pressing a hidden stone against the surface with your fingertip or cotton swab.
Be aware that too much pressure can cause tissue damage. Any scrapes, cuts, or open sores in your mouth can lead to further and more significant infections.
Prevention: The Safer Route
If you have had tonsil stones in the past and want to prevent it from happening again, or if you’re worried that it might be a problem for you then gargling may be one of the best steps you can take. You can do this with your favorite mouthwash or with a mixture of salt and water. The most effective time to gargle is right after you eat, so you can spit out any leftovers before they get trapped in the craters of your tonsils.
Once or twice a week, use an oxygenated mouthwash or toothpaste. This product must contain chlorine dioxide as well as natural zinc compounds which will prevent the growth of bacteria. If you incorporate this type of mouthwash or toothpaste into your routine, you may be able to get rid of tonsil stones completely.
The next time you visit the dentist and he finds tonsilloliths, or you find the stones yourself, don’t panic. Now that you know how they cause them and what you can do to prevent them, tonsil stones should be a short-lived and easily resolved problem.
Feel free to contact Ella Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.