Tonsil stones, also known as tonsilloliths, are calcified bits of debris that can get lodged in the crevices of your tonsils. They are made up of dead cells, mucus, bacteria, and food particles. Once trapped in the folds of your tonsils, they harden into yellowish stones.
While tonsil stones may not exhibit obvious symptoms, one major indication you might have them is recurrent, foul-smelling breath. Larger tonsil stones can cause sore throat, pain when swallowing, ear aches, swollen tonsils, headaches, and a metallic or bad taste in the mouth or in the back of the throat.
How To Identify Tonsil Stones
Luckily, tonsil stones aren’t too hard to spot when you know what you’re looking for. Grab a mirror and open your mouth as wide as you can. Peer into the back of your throat. There are two mounds of tissue that are found in the back of the oral cavity, one on each side. These are your palatine tonsils and the most common hiding spots for stones. If you see what looks like a small pebble or another row of teeth, you have tonsil stones.
8 Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Tonsil Stones
Are you sufficiently grossed out yet? Here are eight easy home treatments to remove tonsil stones and prevent them from returning:
1. Salt Water Gargle
Gargling a cup of salt water can help ease a sore throat, loosen mucus, and flush out bacteria and irritants in the mouth.
Stir ½ teaspoon of salt into 8 ounces of warm water and gargle vigorously to help dislodge tonsil stones. Be sure to tilt your head back so that the salt water reaches the back of your throat. Do this several times per day, especially after eating, to treat existing tonsil stones and to prevent them from coming back.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
The acidic content of apple cider vinegar – as well as other types of vinegar – can help dissolve stubborn tonsil stones.
Gargle one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of warm water to extricate tonsil stones from the throat. You can also break them down by drinking diluted apple cider vinegar daily. If you’re prone to tonsil stones, regularly imbibing apple cider vinegar can help kill off bacteria in the mouth that can cause them to develop in the first place.
The taste of apple cider vinegar may put you off, but there are some clever ways to make it taste better. Watch our video below revealing three ways to make it more palatable.
Another way to rid the mouth of bacteria that causes tonsil stones is to chew on raw garlic. While it might not make sense to fight halitosis with this stinky herb, garlic is strongly anti-microbial due to its allicin content. Garlic is an effective natural medicine that neutralizes gram negative and gram positive bacteria, as well as antibiotic resistant strains.
To ensure your garlic has a high amount of allicin, simply crush or chop up fresh garlic cloves and let it rest for five minutes before consuming. Eat raw garlic with milk, apples, parsley, or spinach to help prevent garlic breath.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast strains that help restore a healthy balance of microbes in the digestive system. Although probiotics are best known for working their magic in the gut, including them in your diet also boosts immune function and inhibits harmful bacteria – including the kinds that cause tonsil stones.
To get your fix of fermented foods, try incorporating yogurt, kombucha, kefir, and other probiotic sources into your daily food and drink.
5. Stay Hydrated
Simply drinking the recommended eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day can solve so many health issues – including tonsil stones.
When we become dehydrated, the production of saliva in the mouth is slowed. Because one of the functions of saliva is to regulate microorganisms, a dry mouth allows bacteria to thrive and rapidly multiply, leaving you much more susceptible to tonsil stones.
But when you consume plenty of liquids – water, fruit juice, tea, or bone broth – the mouth will stay nice and moist and become inhospitable to bacterial growth.
6. Oil Pulling
The ancient, Ayurvedian practice of oil pulling – that is, swishing coconut oil in the mouth for 10 to 20 minutes each day – provides a natural way to cleanse and detoxify the mouth.
Just as effective as mouthwash when it comes to banishing odor-causing bacteria, oil pulling is excellent for keeping the oral cavity clean and smelling fresh. A daily swish also has the added benefit of loosening stubborn tonsil stones from their crevices.
7. Cotton Swab
When you spot a stone nestled in the pink folds of your tonsils, your immediate reaction might be to get in there with your finger and scrape it out. While manual removal is certainly an option, you will want to do this very carefully to prevent further inflammation or an infection.
If the stone is small and easy to reach, use a cotton swab to gently press the skin around the stone. Position the swab behind the stone (and not directly on the stone itself) so that it pops out toward the opening of the mouth. If you successfully dislodge it, spit it out and give your mouth a good swish with salt water to cleanse and disinfect. If the stone is too large or doesn’t budge at all, you should leave this task to your doctor.
8. Tonsil Stone Remover Kit
If your tonsil stones are a recurring nightmare, you may wish to invest in a tonsil stone remover kit like this one. This set comes complete with all the tools you need to get these nasty bits out of your mouth: a LED extractor tool that vastly improves visibility in the mouth, soft silicone extractor heads to prevent scratching the delicate skin in the mouth, an irrigation syringe, and a stainless steel pick.