If you experience difficulty swallowing, bad breath, and swollen tonsils, you may have tonsil stones. Tonsil stones are a common problem that are often caused by poor oral hygiene that allows bacteria, fungi, and viruses to collect in your mouth. If you are wondering how to get rid of tonsil stones, many times they can be resolved with natural remedies in the comfort of your own home.
What Are Tonsil Stones?
Tonsils are the two lymph nodes on either side of the back of the throat. The tonsils help prevent your body from infection. They produce white blood cells to combat the bacteria and viruses that enter your mouth. As strong as they are, tonsils are vulnerable to infection.
When the tonsils become infected, tonsillitis occurs. This is a contagious disease that is caused by viruses and bacteria, including Streptococcal that causes strep throat. The surface of the tonsils isn’t smooth. There are pits, tunnels, and crevices that can trap dead cells, mucus, saliva, and food.
When these pockets and dimples become filled with foreign matter the debris can solidify, causing tonsil stones to develop. Tonsil stones are hard white or yellowish stone-like formations that occur on or in the tonsils. This causes a rancid odor and horrible breath. Tonsil stone symptoms are typically mild, and many people don’t even know these small stone-like pockets have developed in their throat.
Tonsil stones are referred to clinically as tonsilloliths. Surgical tonsil stone removal is rarely necessary when considering how to get rid of tonsil stones. Most of the time, at-home natural remedies will dislodge the tonsil stones without requiring medical intervention.
What Causes Tonsil Stones
The cause of tonsil stones is usually linked to one of the following four root causes.
1. Poor Dental Hygiene
If you don’t brush, floss, and rinse your mouth thoroughly after each meal and snack, you are putting yourself at a higher risk of developing tonsil stones. Trapped food, bacteria, viruses, and fungi cause the stones to develop. Keeping your mouth clean is central to preventing tonsil stones.
2. Chronic Sinus Issues
If you have chronic sinus issues or seasonal allergies you are at a greater risk for tonsil stones. Post-nasal drip can cause mucus to settle into the pockets and crevices of the tonsils and cause tonsil stones to develop. When battling sinus problems, it is wise to gargle with salt, apple cider vinegar, or essential oils to kill any bacteria or viruses flooding your throat.
3. Large Tonsils
If you have larger than normal tonsils, you may be more prone to developing tonsil stones. This is because there is more surface area, more nooks and crannies, and more pockets where fungi, viruses, and bacteria can take hold and thrive.
4. Chronic Tonsillitis
Tonsillitis is often thought of as a childhood disease, but if you’ve never had your tonsils removed, your tonsils can become infected at any time. Chronic tonsillitis is caused by viral or bacterial infections linked to infected tonsil stones. This is an infection that is contagious, but tonsil stones can’t be passed through close personal contact or kissing.
Tonsil Stone Symptoms
Small tonsil stones may not cause any symptoms. However, larger tonsilloliths or groups can cause the following tonsil stone symptoms:
- Bad breath
- Chronic sore throat
- Swollen tonsils
- Unpleasant odor or taste
- Difficulty swallowing
- Ear pain
- Chronic cough
- White or yellow spots on the tonsil
If you’re experiencing any of these tonsil stone symptoms, have no fear! We’ve got a complete guide on how to get rid of tonsil stones for you.
How to Get Rid of Tonsil Stones with 5 Natural Treatments
The vast majority of tonsil stones do not require medical treatment. Tonsil stones removal can be facilitated through one or more of the following natural treatments.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Your grandma wasn’t wrong! Apple cider vinegar is one of the best natural home remedies available. This multitasking liquid is packed with friendly bacteria—but you must use apple cider vinegar with the “mother” culture.
To get rid of tonsil stones, simply mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into 1 cup of warm water, and swish it around and then gargle for a minute or two. Do this several times a day. It is believed that the acid in ACV can help to break down the stones and fight the bacteria, viruses, or fungi that are taking up residency in your throat.
2. Gargling and Cough
If the stones are small, gargling with salt water and then coughing just might do the trick to get rid of the tonsil stones. Just mix 2 teaspoons of salt (preferably sea salt or pink Himalayan salt) into 1 cup of hot water, and stir until dissolved. Allow the salt water to come to room temperature and then take a big sip and start to gargle.
Spit and repeat several times until you’ve finished off the salt water. Now, force a couple of good, strong coughs. Spit after each cough. If you look in the back of your throat and notice changes, you may want to gargle and spit again to help knock the tonsil stones loose.
3. Internal Detox
Supporting your body’s internal defenses against infection is imperative to your overall health. If your tonsil stones become infected, you may feel the results throughout your body. The tonsils are our first line of defense from potentially harmful bacteria and viruses.
When your immune system is struggling to fight invaders, doing a detox may boost its efficiency. Try a clean and healthy Acai Cleanse supplement that is packed with antioxidants and other natural detoxifiers. Take as directed to fight harmful free radicals in the body.
4. Probiotic Supplements and Probiotic-Rich Foods
If your tonsil stones have become infected, your doctor may prescribe a round of antibiotics to kill the infection. When this happens, it is imperative that you add friendly bacteria back into your system through supplements and probiotic-rich foods. Purchase a high-quality multistrain probiotic with at least 50 billion CFUs.
Add probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir to your diet. The more variety of friendly bacteria you ingest, the better the results. Eat more prebiotic-rich foods too. These are phytochemicals that aren’t digested in the body but that promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
5. Coconut Oil Pulling
Swishing oil in the mouth is a common Ayurvedic medicine practice known as oil pulling. Historically, coconut oil, sesame oil, or even olive oil is used. But since coconut oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids that exhibit antiviral, anti-fungal, and antibacterial properties, it’s considered the best for getting rid of tonsil stones.
In fact, according to a recent report published in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition, coconut oil pulling is excellent for oral health. Put a couple of teaspoons in your mouth and allow the coconut oil to melt. Then, start swishing and swooshing—do this for at least 10 minutes and preferably up to 20 minutes and then spit it out. But do not spit the oil down the drain! This can clog your plumbing.
4 Essential Oils for Oral Health
Natural essential oils demonstrate antifungal activity against oral candidiasis according to the journal Drug Design, Development and Therapy. This is on top of the excellent antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties that many essential oils demonstrate. There are essential oils for headaches and essential oils that can help to get rid of tonsil stones and improve oral health.
1. Cinnamon Essential Oil
Cinnamon is a beloved spice—but it also contains powerful health benefits. And cinnamon essential oil demonstrates extraordinary antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory properties. In a study published in the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, cinnamon essential oil is identified as an effective antibacterial agent for dental health.
Cinnamon oil is spicy hot, so it is best to mix it with a carrier oil like coconut oil. In fact, you can add 3 to 5 drops of cinnamon essential oil to the coconut oil for oil pulling. This powerful oil effectively fights infections and stimulates the immune system, which can help get rid of tonsil stones.
2. Oregano Oil
Oregano oil is a potent antiviral and antibacterial essential oil. Add a couple of drops to either coconut oil for oil pulling or to warm water as an infection-fighting gargle solution. Be warned—oregano oil has an incredibly strong oregano flavor. After gargling, you may want to have fresh juice on hand to cleanse your palate.
3. Clove Bud
Clove bud oil is often suggested for toothache pain. Clove is an aromatic oil with powerful pain-fighting characteristics, perfect for when tonsil stones become painful. And now research shows that clove essential oil, or Eugenia caryophyllata, effectively fights common oral pathogens, including 46 strains of yeast and 114 strains of streptococci according to the journal Annals of Microbiology.
Like cinnamon essential oil, clove bud oil is hot and spicy on the tongue. It is important to use clove bud oil along with a carrier oil like coconut oil in oil pulling or dilute it with water before swishing and gargling.
4. Thyme Essential Oil
Thyme essential oil is mentioned explicitly by researchers in the study published in Drug Design, Development and Therapy as a fighter of oral candidiasis. If you are prone to oral thrush because of steroid inhaler use, or if you’ve been diagnosed with candidiasis, use thyme essential oil to help purify your mouth.
Thyme essential oil isn’t hot like cinnamon oil or clove oil so you can sprinkle a few drops onto your toothbrush every time you brush. This can help fight viruses, bacteria, and fungi that may cause tonsil stones to become infected and inflamed.
Preventing Tonsil Stones
The best way to prevent tonsil stones is with good oral hygiene. It is essential to brush your teeth and rinse thoroughly after each meal to keep stray food particles from latching into the crevices of the tonsils. And of course, flossing is vital to remove little bits of food that can become dislodged only to find a welcoming home in the tonsils.
If you smoke, stop. Smoking puts you at an increased risk of poor oral health and dental decay.
It is also important to stay hydrated. The more liquids you consume, the moister your mouth is. The extra moisture can help prevent the pockets of the tonsils from becoming lodged with foreign substances.
When you have a sinus infection, gargling and rinsing is vital. Mucus can settle into the crevices and pits in the tonsils and create tonsil stones. Gargle several times a day with salt water or water with added essential oil known for fighting bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
When to See Your Physician About Tonsil Stones
As mentioned above, tonsil stones are rarely a cause for concern. Most tonsil stones can be resolved with one or more of the natural tonsil stone removal remedies discussed above. If you’ve read on another site that you can safely scrape tonsil stones off with a cotton swab or toothbrush—don’t try it.
The tonsils are sensitive, and they are responsible for managing white blood cell production to fight pathogens ingested. Don’t try self-removal as you can damage the delicate tissue and spread any bacteria or virus in the tonsil stone.
If the tonsil stone is bothersome, see your doctor. There are minor surgical procedures for tonsil stones that cause difficulty swallowing or another discomfort. Possible medical procedures recommended may include:
- Laser tonsil cryptolysis: This procedure smoothes out the surface of the tonsils where tonsil stones take root. Laser tonsil cryptolysis is done under local anesthesia and is usually recommended for chronic or recurring tonsil stones.
- Coblation cryptolysis: Instead of using a laser, your medical team may recommend coblation cryptolysis, which uses radio waves to remove tonsil stones. The radio waves spur a salt solution to charge ions, which then cut through tissue and tonsil stones.
- Tonsillectomy: The surgical removal of the tonsils may be recommended for severe or chronic cases. However, today this is considered a bit controversial as we have a better understanding of the role of tonsils in fighting pathogens.
- Antibiotics: Your doctor may prescribe a round of antibiotics if the tonsil stones are large and inflamed. The antibiotics can lower the overall bacteria count and prevent a more widespread infection that could lead to tonsillitis and a tonsillectomy.
Complications of tonsil stones are rare. However, a deep infection of the tonsils or an abscess can disrupt normal tonsil tissue resulting in swelling, inflammation, and a severe infection. If tonsil stones recur, it is important to see your doctor and address any underlying condition.