Causes of Tonsil Stones

By james
Reviewed: Dr. Gromatzky
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Tonsil stones are also known as tonsil calculi and tonsilloliths. They are typified by hard white/yellowish lumps that accumulate on the tonsils over time. They are usually harmless, but they will sometimes cause unwanted signs and symptoms such as pain, sore throat, ear pain, an irritating sensation of having something stuck in the throat, and bad breath that is difficult to make go away.

Tonsil stones are becoming more common than they used to be, partly because the practice of removing tonsils at a young age is becoming less common. Here’s a closer look at what tonsil stones are and what causes them.

1. Tonsils

Our tonsils are a part of our natural defense against disease and anything else that might cause us to become ill. The mouth is a haven for pathogens, and this can be a real problem for us if they get out of hand. We have evolved ways to help deal with these pathogens in the mouth, one of which is the tonsils. The tonsils help to trap unwelcome intruders, and then set about destroying them so that they can do no harm. The system is not a perfect one, and we can live just fine without the tonsils should they be removed. They are prone to developing a number of complications, one of which is tonsil stones.

Tonsil Stones

2. Tonsil Crypts

The tonsils usually appear to be made from smooth, flat tissue, but this is not actually the case. In reality, the tonsils have a number of folds and pockets that are known as crypts. If you look, you should be able to see lines in the tonsils where the tissues are folded.

Most people have somewhere between 10 to 20 of these crypts. Some people have crypts that are larger or smaller than usual, while some will have more or fewer crypts than others. Crypts can occasionally trap food, debris, and bacteria, and this can become problematic in some cases.

3. Tonsil Stones

As mentioned, food, bacteria, and debris can get trapped in the crypts of the tonsils. These are then attacked by the body’s white blood cells to help prevent us from disease and infection. Once the white blood cells have completed their work, they will leave behind tiny white particles.

Usually, these particles are simply swallowed or washed away in some other way, but this is not always the case. In some people, these particles will become lodged where they are and, as more white blood cells leave deposits, so the particles will begin to accumulate. These can then grow into what we know as tonsil stones.

Tonsil Stones

4. Biofilm

If you have tonsil stones, then you would probably want to have them removed. This can often be done at home with a toothbrush and other equipment, although professional assistance may be needed in the more severe cases. The name “tonsil stones” suggests that they are a type of stone, and it is easy to see why considering their appearance and texture.

They are not stones at all, however, and are in fact a type of living biofilm. They even breathe the oxygen that is in our mouths. They are still quite harmless, though, unless they grow too large and start causing other complications.

5. Common in Teenagers

Pretty much anybody can develop tonsil stones; there is little evidence to say that any particular sociodemographic is more likely to get them. Asides, that is, from people who make certain lifestyle choices that might encourage the growth of tonsil stones. Tonsil stones can also develop in people of all ages, but they do appear to occur more commonly in teenagers. It is not clear why this is, however.

If you are a teenager, then it may be a good idea to get regular check-ups and take what precautions you can against tonsil stones. Regular check-ups are advisable anyway to help maintain good overall oral health.

Tonsil Stones

6. Large Tonsils

People come in a wide range of different shapes and sizes. Some are bigger than others, and this can lead to a number of advantages, but it also comes with some disadvantages. Some people also have certain body parts that are smaller or larger relative to their own body size, and this also has its advantages and disadvantages.

Some people have larger tonsils than others. This can mean that food and debris are more likely to become trapped and this, in turn, means that tonsils stones are more likely to develop in their mouths. If you do have larger tonsils than usual, you should pay extra attention to your oral health.

7. Hygiene

If you practice good dental hygiene then you are more likely to remove the deposits that can lead to tonsil stones developing. This does not mean to say that people with tonsil stones necessarily have bad dental hygiene habits. They can occur even in people with the highest of standards where dental hygiene is concerned.

In order to reduce your chances of developing tonsil stones, make sure to include the tonsils when you are brushing your teeth to help dislodge any particles. An antiseptic mouthwash will also help prevent tonsil stones, as well as giving other benefits such as protecting the teeth and fresh breath.

Tonsil Stones

8. Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils and is usually caused by a virus. It will cause a number of unwelcome symptoms, including a sore throat, fever, and a headache among other things. It can also cause an inflammation of the tonsils, and this can lead to further complications.

The inflammation of the tonsils will make it more likely that food and debris will become lodged in the tonsil crypts. Thus, if people have tonsillitis often, then they are more likely to develop tonsil stones. Tonsillitis itself can be very painful for the patient, but it is relatively easy to treat.

9. Sinus Problems

Our sinuses are a number of hollow cavities in the skull that are connected with each other. We are not entirely sure why we have them. We know they produce a mucus that helps line the inside of our noses, and another popular theory is that they help to moisturize the air that we breathe in.

They may also help to enhance our voices, and they also help to make the head a little lighter. The sinuses are lined with a soft tissue and this is prone to developing a number of problems. People who suffer from sinus problems regularly are more likely to develop tonsil stones as well.

10. Dry Mouth

As mentioned, the particles left by white blood cells are usually washed away and swallowed, and saliva helps to this extent. In addition, saliva is a mild antiseptic so it will help keep levels of bacteria down. There are a number of other uses for saliva, and we will likely experience a number of unwelcome symptoms if we do not produce enough.

This includes an increased risk of developing tonsil stones. A dry mouth can be caused by a number of things, including some illnesses and certain medications. It is something that should encourage you to speak with a medical professional.

Tonsil Stones

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