Common Causes of Tonsilloliths

Common Causes of Tonsilloliths

Tonsilloliths are hard, calcified particles that form on the tonsils which appear as small white bumps. These particles are created when food, bacteria or other types of particles become trapped and collect in the crevices on the soft outer lining of the tonsils and calcify.

The calcified remains are commonly referred to as tonsilloliths or tonsil stones.

There are a few causes of tonsil stones and some of the main ones include:

  1. Chronic Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils that results in inflammation (swelling), redness and pain. Chronic tonsillitis is when this infection occurs on a regular basis and it can cause even more stressful symptoms and problems.

The infection is the result of bacteria and viruses entering the body through the mouth and the tonsils attempting to combat these as the first line of defence – many think tonsils are not needed because of how ineffective they can be when attempting this.

Inflammation can increase the likelihood of particles becoming trapped on the tonsils and excess bacteria make it more likely that particles will become trapped as the tonsils perform their function.

Both of these knock-on-effects will increase the likelihood of tonsil stones forming during tonsillitis.

  1. Poor Oral Hygiene

The mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria and has all the ideal factors that these microorganisms need to reproduce and proliferate – warmth, moisture and plenty of food. As well as this, the plaque on your teeth contains loads of bacteria.

Lack of a regular and good oral hygiene routine increases the amount of bacteria and other particles in the mouth which can lead to the formation of tonsilloliths as well as tonsillitis. And by not properly cleaning out your mouth, it will be much easier for small particles of food, dead cells and mucus to hide within small gaps and crevices around your tonsils – just ready for bacteria to feed on them.

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Brushing and flossing 3 times per day and using a good antibacterial, non-alcoholic mouthwash is essential if you want to avoid this. You should also try drinking enough water each day and limit your tobacco and alcohol consumption.

Additionally, you could try using antibacterial lozenges (sugar free) as they can also assist in eliminating excess bacteria and prevent tonsilloliths from forming.

  1. Large Tonsils

Some people have larger tonsils than others. Larger tonsils often result in the formation of tonsils stones than smaller tonsils. This is largely due to the fact that larger tonsils have a greater surface area and therefore more crypts where particles can become trapped and collect.

For this reason, large tonsils are often more prone to infection in general, not just tonsil stones.

  1. Sinusitis, Rhinitis and Other Nasal Conditions

The sinuses are canals that are linked to the Eustachian tubes and the throat. They also have the same lining or membrane as the tonsils. If the sinuses become infected, it can result in excess mucous that drips down the back of the throat (post-nasal drip) which can spread the infection to the throat, ears and the tonsils.

This can also have an opposite effect where an infection of the tonsils can lead to an infection in the sinuses. This is referred to as a secondary infection.

The flow of mucous as well as the increased risk of infection can both increase the chance of developing tonsilloliths. Treating sinus and other types of nasal infections promptly can prevent the spread of the infection as well as the formation of tonsil stones.

  1. Strep Throat
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Strep throat is not just a regular sore throat but is caused specifically by the streptococcus bacteria. Where a strep infection occurs, it is more than likely that a tonsil infection will follow and vice versa. While strep throat is not a direct cause of tonsil stones, the fact that it increases the risk of infection and therefore inflammation, may result in the formation of tonsilloliths.

A normal sore throat, caused by other types of bacteria or even viruses may also result in tonsillitis, although this isn’t as common as the infection resulting from strep throat. A tonsillectomy (removal of the tonsils) may be recommended for recurring strep throat even when the tonsils do not always become infected as a result.

Final Words

It is very rare for a tonsil stone to become trapped to the extent that it becomes enlarged and begins causing pain and discomfort. Even larger tonsil stones can easily be removed by a doctor. It is however recommended to attempt to remove tonsil stones to prevent this from occurring.

Tonsilloliths are not a serious condition and are normally very easy to remove by simply gargling, using a cotton swab or coughing.

Apart from the appearance of white bumps on the tonsils, tonsilloliths are commonly also accompanied by bad breath, difficulty swallowing, sore throat and inflamed tonsils. It is because of these symptoms why those effected want them removed as easily as possible.

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