Having an attractive smile is essential to making a great first impression, but that impression won’t hold up if people can’t stand your breath when they get within conversation distance. You might think you’re doing everything you can to combat bad breath, but if you’re not getting rid of tonsil stones, then you’ve got a bad breath factory in your mouth that just needs to be removed.
What Are Your Tonsils?
If you look at the back of your mouth in a mirror, you can see fleshy lumps on either side of your throat. These lumps are your tonsils. If you also see small grayish or whitish lumps inside your tonsils, then you have tonsil stones.
Your tonsils are part of your body’s filtration system. Their purpose is to stop some particles, and especially bacteria from making their way into your throat and lungs. Did you know that oral bacteria are among those commonly found in people with pneumonia? Well, that’s what your tonsils are supposed to help prevent.
Your tonsils have a lot of grooves and holes to help trap bacteria and pollution particles. The front line troops of your immune system, the white blood cells, patrol your tonsils to try to get rid of things that get trapped here.
Tartar on Your Tonsils
But white blood cells aren’t always able to stop the spread and growth of bacteria on your tonsils. As the bacteria die, their bodies become fossilized by the high mineral content in your saliva. This is what causes the stony part of the tonsil stone. The soft parts are living bacteria that are continuing to thrive.
If you think about the environment where these tonsil stones, also called tonsillliths and tonsilloliths, grow, you’ll realize that there isn’t a lot of oxygen there. That doesn’t hamper the growth of this bacteria though, but the bacteria in the tonsil stones is primarily anaerobic. It doesn’t need oxygen and in fact finds it toxic. Instead, these bacteria “breathe” sulfur, and use it to create all kinds of stinky compounds. What we call “bad breath” is typically these bacteria eating and excreting.
Many people don’t realize that tonsil stones are a significant contributor to bad breath, and it’s no wonder. They’re kept secret out of view in the hollows of the tonsils, which are known as “crypts.”
What Can Be Done to Control Tonsil Stones and Bad Breath
For some people, tonsil stones don’t have any significant impact. But for others, the things can be hives of odorous vermin that need to be taken care of. If you are experiencing problems related to tonsil stones, here’s how you can get relief.
- Oral hygiene: make sure that you are keeping oral bacteria levels down by brushing and flossing regularly. This also eliminates the food that feeds the oral bacteria producing smelly compounds.
- Visit the dentist regularly: regular checkups will help us assess whether tonsil stones or another oral health problem, like gum disease, is the true cause of your bad breath.
- Remove tonsil stones: If you feel comfortable, you can remove tonsil stones with a soft tool, such as your toothbrush.
- Talk to a doctor: Tonsil stones are sometimes associated with more serious infections. If you have recurring tonsil stones that are associated with swollen lymph nodes, fever, or other symptoms of infection, see a doctor.