How to prevent tonsil stones

7th August, 2020 • 5 min read

Tonsil stones are lumps of hard material made up of mucus and bacteria that build up in the tonsils – the organs at the back of your throat that help fight infections.

Tonsil stones are normally harmless and some poeple may not notice they have them until they have a dental check-up. But for others, they can feel irritating – like something's stuck in your throat. Do tonsil stones hurt? Yes they do in some cases as they can give you a sore throat and make it hard to swallow.

For some people, tonsil stones smell and cause them to have bad breath (

halitosis
). This is because they provide a home for bacteria to grow that can make your breath smell.

Find out about what causes

[tonsil stones](/blog/what-are-tonsil-stones-and-what-causes-them)
. Whether you have them for the first time, or they keep coming back, here are some tips on how to prevent tonsil stones.

How to stop tonsil stones

Tonsil stones form when bacteria and other debris gather in tiny folds on the surface of your tonsils. Taking the time to brush your teeth thoroughly can stop any bacteria and debris from building up in your mouth – helping to prevent tonsil stones from forming.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), you should try to:

  • brush your teeth twice a day — using fluoride toothpaste to kill bacteria and protect your teeth
  • clean between your teeth at least once a day with floss or a dental pick to remove any debris.

Using a mouthwash for tonsil stones is a good idea. Try rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash or a saltwater solution to kill any bacteria.

Some experts recommend using a tongue scraper to remove bacteria that might be living on your tongue.

A

healthy diet is important
too, because drinking soft drinks and eating lots of sugary foods can encourage bacteria to build up in your mouth.

Quit smoking and reduce alcohol intake

There’s some evidence to suggest that smoking and drinking can increase your risk of developing a tonsil stone.

If you smoke or drink and you have tonsil stones, cutting down can help. Find

help to stop smoking
and
support for issues with alcohol
.

Speak to a doctor

If you’ve tried these changes and you’re wondering why you keep getting tonsil stones, it may be worth speaking to a doctor to find out what could be causing them to keep forming – especially if you have a sudden increase in tonsil stones.

Studies show that people who get recurrent (or repeat) episodes of

tonsillitis
are also more likely to develop tonsil stones. This is because tonsillitis can scar the surface of your tonsils — creating more folds and cavities to trap bacteria and other debris.

Some people also have naturally wrinkly tonsils that contain a lot of folds.

A doctor will probably refer you to a specialist ear nose and throat (ENT) doctor who can examine your tonsil stones and talk to you about your options.

The treatments you can access may vary depending on where you live, but these are some of the common surgical procedures used to remove tonsil stones.

Tonsillotomy

A tonsillotomy (sometimes called a partial tonsillectomy) is where a surgeon flattens the surface of your tonsils. This removes the pits and crevices that trap debris and allow tonsil stones to form.

Some tonsillotomies can be done under local anaesthetic, using a laser, surgical tools or high-frequency radio waves to flatten your tonsils.

Some experts think that these procedures are safer than a full tonsillectomy - where the whole tonsil is removed - because they don’t need to be performed under general anaesthetic. There’s some evidence to suggest that tonsillotomies have shorter recovery times too.

But tonsillotomies are not available everywhere, and some doctors may recommend a tonsillectomy instead.

Tonsillectomy

A tonsillectomy is where a surgeon removes both your tonsils. This will stop tonsil stones from coming back, but it’s rare for a doctor to recommend this to prevent tonsil stones.

This is because the procedure has to be done under general anaesthetic, which can cause side effects. These can include dizziness, confusion and memory loss, temporary bladder problems, vomiting and feelings of nausea, which can last up to a day.

Tonsillectomies can also cause side effects like infection and bleeding, and it can take up to 12 days to fully recover.

How do you get rid of tonsil stones?

You can normally treat tonsil stones yourself at home. Try garling with a mothwash or saltwater solution to help dislodge the stones without damaging delicate tissue around them.

See more on

treating tonsil stones
.

Key points

  • brushing your teeth twice a day can help stop bacteria from building up in your mouth, and prevent tonsil stones from forming
  • rinsing your mouth with a mothwash or saltwater solution can also help
  • eating a healthy diet that's low in sugary foods can help prevent build up of bacteria
  • There’s some evidence to suggest that smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol can increase your risk of developing a tonsil stone, so cut down if you need to.

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.