What are Tonsil Stones?
You might not think much about your tonsils until the cold season when they become enlarged, but what purpose do they serve? Tonsils are fleshy tissue at the back of the throat on each side. This small bit of tissue detects bacteria and viruses that enter the mouth, then filters them using white blood cells and antibodies. Tonsils are layered with mucous membrane, the same slippery mucosa that is inside the mouth, throat and nose. Tonsils have crevices and when calcium deposits build up in them, they form tonsil stones, also known as tonsilloliths. Tonsil stones can go undetected and are often seen only by an x-ray or CT scan.Read More
What Causes Tonsil Stones?
Calcium deposits come in the form of trapped food or debris. While tonsil stones are not hazardous, they can grow and cause mild problems. Tonsil stones are usually 1mm to 2mm, sometimes 1cm, in diameter. People with large crevices or enlarged ‘tonsillar crypts’ are likely to have trapped calcium deposits harden into stones. Bacteria and fungi can also cause tonsil stones.
• Bad breath.
• Irritation in the throat.
• White nodes or bumps on the tonsils.
• Sore throat.
• Bad taste in the mouth.
• Difficulty swallowing.
How to Get Rid of Tonsil Stones
There are two ways to remove tonsil stones – one is at-home removal and the other is surgery.
At home: If you choose this option use extreme caution and be gentle. Tonsil stones can be removed with dental picks, swabs or toothbrushes. Use water to help dislodge tonsil stone build- up.
Tonsillectomy: If you suffer from persistent tonsil stones, consult your doctor about surgery. Removing tonsils, or having a tonsillectomy, will eliminate any possibility of tonsil stones returning. Tonsil stones are more pesky than dangerous, but if they are affecting your quality of life talk to your doctor about a specialist referral. A tonsillectomy is an outpatient procedure, so most patients can leave the same day as surgery. An anesthesiologist will put you under basic anesthesia. The mouth is then held open and the tonsils secured. The procedure usually lasts between 30 and 45 minutes and can be performed several different ways:
• Electrocautery: This procedure uses heat to remove the tonsils, as well as to prevent blood hemorrhaging
• Knife dissection: A scalpel is used to remove the tonsils. Electrocautery, or sutures in some cases, is used to stop bleeding.
• Harmonic scalpel: Ultrasonic vibrations are used to remove the tonsils and simultaneously stop bleeding.
• Other methods: Radiofrequency ablation, carbon dioxide laser, microdebrider surgery.
Recovery from a tonsillectomy can take between seven and 10 days, sometimes two weeks. The American Academy of Otolaryngology has the following guidelines:
• Drink lots of fluids following the procedure.
• There are no set food restrictions but it is recommended to maintain a diet of soft foods. Eating can be painful and weight loss is possible. However, physicians say the sooner a patient eats, the quicker they will recover.
• Fever sometimes occurs a day or two after a tonsillectomy. Contact your doctor if your temperature is above 102°F.
• Snoring and difficulty breathing may occur in the first 10 to 14 days because of swelling in the throat. The swelling will eventually subside and breathing will return to normal.
• Scabs will form on the surgical site. They will look thick and white and cause bad breath. Scabs usually fall off in small pieces five to 10 days after surgery. They are a normal part of healing.
• Mild to severe pain in the throat is part of the post-op process. Ask your doctor to prescribe pain relief medication.
• Cleveland Clinic recommends you stay at home for at least a full week of recovery.
Foods for Tonsillectomy Recovery
Doctors at Cleveland Clinic recommend the following:
• Ice cream.
• Mashed potatoes.
• Scrambled eggs.
• Avoid hard foods or spicy foods.
Risks of a Tonsillectomy
Tonsillectomies are not particularly risky, but every procedure carries some risk.
• Bleeding can occur during or after surgery.
• Excessive blood loss or a hemorrhage.
• Dehydration. Begin fluid intake immediately after surgery.
• Extreme pain.
• Difficulty breathing to the point of being life-threatening.
How to Prevent Tonsil Stones
The best way to prevent tonsil stones is through thorough oral hygiene. After eating, it is recommended to not only brush your teeth, but your tongue as well, … vigorously. Gargle water in the back of your throat after brushing. If you have recurring tonsil stones, or symptoms that indicate you might have tonsil stones, talk to your doctor.