If you are plagued with ongoing halitosis, or bad breath, you may be wondering where it’s coming from and what you can do about it. Bad breath can be an embarrassing problem and when the interventions you’re using to cure it aren’t working, it can become a source of stress.
While halitosis can certainly be the result of poor oral hygiene the origins can go deeper. If you’ve been brushing and flossing but still find yourself reaching for a breath mint or stick of gum before entering a social situation, you may want to consult with your doctor about the possibility that you have tonsil stones, also called tonsilliths.
What Are Tonsil Stones?
Your tonsils are located at the back of your mouth. They sit on either side of your throat and are made up of delicate folds of flesh (also called tonsil crypts). Your tonsils act as part of your immune system as they help filter out germs or viruses that enter your body through the mouth or nose.
Tonsil stones are tiny lumps that can develop when tiny bits of food or bacteria get caught in the tonsil crypts and are calcified. They are white or yellow in colour and can be visible with the naked eye. Sometimes people have them and don’t even know it. Other people have trouble swallowing or feel like they have something in their throat. The most common symptom is chronic bad breath.
Why Do Tonsil Stones Give You Bad Breath?
Tonsil stones are made up of anaerobic bacteria. These bacteria do not live or grow when oxygen is present and are mostly found in our gastrointestinal tract. Anaerobic bacteria produce volatile sulfur compounds which have a pungent aroma. You may liken it to rotten eggs.
So, despite your best attempts to mask the smell, if you have tonsilliths the smell will be present as long as the stones are. You may also experience an unpleasant taste due to the stones.
What Can I Do About Halitosis Caused by Tonsil Stones?
There are some things you can try at home to release the stones. We recommend gargling with warm water. Not only will this feel good for your throat, it will also help dislodge tonsil stones. You may also try gargling with a vinegar solution, peroxide, salt water, apple cider vinegar or antiseptic mouthwash. This will ideally kill the anaerobic bacteria causing the smell and maybe even dislodge the stones.
We caution people trying to scrape the tonsilliths off the tonsils at home. Your tonsils are delicate and you risk scratching them which can cause bleeding or perhaps an infection.
What About Surgery?
A procedure called tonsil cryptolysis uses coblation to smooth the tonsil crypts and decrease the surface area of the tonsils while leaving enough tissue to not injure the throat. The process can be performed using general anesthesia and recovery time is just a few days. The procedure takes approximately 30 minutes and the patient can go home the same day. After a tonsil cryptolysis, tonsil stones and their accompanying bad breath will not return.
If you’re interested in knowing more about how this procedure can help eliminate your chronic halitosis, speak with Dr. Rotenberg’s staff to determine if you’re a candidate. Say goodbye to bad breath for good.