There are many potential causes of persistent bad breath. Many of them are related to oral bacteria on your teeth and gums, but there’s another place where bacteria can accumulate in your mouth that’s a little harder to reach: your tonsils. When bacteria accumulate here, it leads to tonsil stones and they cause bad breath.
What Are Your Tonsils?
Your tonsils are lumps that you can see on the left and right side of your throat. Sometimes, too, you can even see small whitish or grayish lumps in them. These are the tonsil stones.
Your tonsils goals are to try to prevent some incidental particles and bacteria from making their way down your throat to your stomach and, especially, your lungs (oral bacteria are among the most common in pneumonia). To help them accomplish this job, your tonsils have a surface full of furrows and holes. Once bacteria are caught here, they are attacked and killed by white blood cells.
Tartar on Your Tonsils
However, often the white blood cells can’t keep up with the pace of killing oral bacteria, and the bacteria can accumulate. As the bacterial population swells, some of the bacteria die, and their bodies absorb some of the minerals in your saliva, just as happens with bacteria that you don’t fully remove when brushing. We call the hardened material on your teeth tartar, but when it’s inside your tonsils, we call it a tonsil stone, tonsillolith, or tonsillith.
And just like tartar on your teeth, these tonsil stones can support large numbers of anaerobic bacteria, which “breathe” sulfur and create all kinds of smelly compounds as a result. That’s how tonsil stones can cause bad breath.
Preventing and Treating Tonsil Stones
A lot of people develop and pass tonsil stones without any major concerns, but if your tonsil stones are contributing to your chronic bad breath, here are a few things you can do.
- Brush and floss thoroughly: oral bacteria colonies in the mouth can feed populations on your tonsils, causing them to accumulate faster
- Visit the dentist regularly: keeping oral bacteria populations under control with checkups and hygiene visits can help prevent tonsil stones from developing
- Remove stones yourself: If you notice tonsil stones, you can try to remove them yourself with your toothbrush.
- Talk to a doctor: If you are experiencing other symptoms of an infection, such as chronic swelling of the tonsils and lymph nodes or fever.
Most of the time, preventive care is all that’s necessary to prevent tonsil stones.
If you want help maintaining your oral hygiene and preventing bad breath in Summerlin, please call (702) 873-0324 for an appointment at the office of Dr. James B. Polley.