Your tonsils may be the cause of your bad breath

accreditation
Tonsil stones form when food, mucous and dead cells collect in your tonsils.
Tonsil stones form when food, mucous and dead cells collect in your tonsils.

Have you noticed that no matter how often and how hard you brush, rinse and floss, you’re still stuck with bad breath?

You may be dealing with something called tonsil stones.

ENT specialist Dr Sharon Williams describes what tonsil stones are and how they are formed: "The tonsillar surface is not smooth but has numerous tonsillar crypts that open onto the surface. These crypts may contain mucus, organic materials like minerals and proteins, dead cells, and most likely bacteria as well – a result of recurrent tonsillitis, unresolved tonsillitis or chronic inflammation of the tonsils. This debris may become trapped or calcified, causing tonsillar stones, otherwise known as tonsilloliths, which may occur at any stage from childhood into old age."

Dr Williams adds that although halitosis is a common complaint in people with tonsilloliths, these stones are not that common. 

Dental hygiene

Having tonsil stones is not harmful or a sign of any serious disease, but depending on their size they can be quite uncomfortable. Poor dental hygiene is the most common causes of these smelly stones, but sometimes they develop as the result of really big tonsils that tend to trap these particles more easily.

Researchers, however, point out that these tonsilloliths are more than just annoying little stones; they’re actually living dental biofilms which respire oxygen and nitrates.

Getting rid of tonsil stones is not a difficult feat. Most of the time they become dislodged when you brush your teeth or while coughing. "Tonsilloliths usually extrude spontaneously, and many people will complain of spitting out yellow or white concretions with the consistency of a dry piece of bread," says Dr Williams. 

These stones do not have a specific shape but instead take on the shape of the crevice in which they are formed. They usually range from one to three millimetres in size. The colour tends to be varying shades of white and yellow.

Clearing the stones

If you think you have tonsil stones and want to get rid of them, you’ll need a flashlight and a cotton swab.

Use the flashlight to illuminate your mouth. Once you’ve spotted the stones, gently wiggle them out with the cotton swab.

If you’re not comfortable poking around in your mouth, you can gargle with salt water, which will help dislodge the stones and clean out the crevices in your tonsils.

Should these stones become a big problem, you might want to consult your local ENT specialist and consider removing your tonsils altogether.

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 748 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
83% - 8702 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
10% - 1036 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
17.77
-0.0%
Rand - Pound
20.18
-0.2%
Rand - Euro
17.62
-0.3%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.57
-0.3%
Rand - Yen
0.12
-0.0%
Gold
1,723.90
+0.4%
Silver
20.69
+0.2%
Palladium
2,267.50
+0.4%
Platinum
928.50
+0.7%
Brent Crude
93.37
+1.7%
Top 40
60,105
+1.5%
All Share
66,528
+1.4%
Resource 10
64,350
+1.0%
Industrial 25
80,743
+1.9%
Financial 15
14,120
+1.1%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE