When you experience sudden increase of tonsil stones, it can be worrisome. You might not know what is causing this problem or how to get rid of the pain and discomfort that comes with it.
Many people think they might be a sign of cancer, but that is rarely the case – particularly because they can occur for many different reasons.
You might have a sudden increase in tonsil stones if you don’t practice good oral hygiene, have excess mucus, breathe through your mouth, have a weakened immune system, experience tonsillitis, or eat foods that encourage bacterial growth. Try gargling with hydrogen peroxide, salt water, or vinegar.
If you’ve suddenly noticed an increase in tonsil stones, you might be alarmed and wonder what you did to cause it. Tonsil stones are harmless, but they can be painful and smell very bad. They’re signs of a bacterial infection in your throat, and many different factors can trigger their formation.
Let’s go into all of the details so that you can understand why your body is developing those annoying, smelly abscesses. If you find the cause of your tonsil stones and treat them appropriately, you can prevent them and get rid of them for good.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Poor oral hygiene is one of the most prominent causes of tonsil stones, but what does that really mean?
After all, you probably brush your teeth at least once per day, floss, and use mouthwash – yet your breath still stinks. That’s because tonsil stones are a sign of bacterial growth deep in your throat, within the folds and crypts of your tonsils.
These bacteria can come from many different sources, including the air, the food you eat, and the water you drink. When they set up camp in your tonsils, they’re hard to get rid of.
Sometimes, a bit of food or mucus gets caught behind or around your tonsils. When this happens, anaerobic bacteria can start to grow underneath it.
These bacteria cause tonsil stones’ terrible smell. So, if you can smell or taste a sulfury, rotten egg smell in your throat, you probably have a tonsil stone.
Getting rid of this bacteria is the key to getting rid of your bad breath, but it takes consistent effort.
Brushing your teeth, flossing, and gargling with an antibacterial mouthwash can eliminate the infection, so keeping a clean mouth is crucial.
Gargling with hydrogen peroxide, salt water, or vinegar can also soften your tonsil stones and remove them. In other words, keeping a good gargling practice is one of the best treatments for tonsil stones, no matter what has caused them.
Check out my article on making your own tonsil stone dissolver for more info.
Excess Mucus From Allergies or Sickness
Sometimes, tonsil stones are caused by postnasal drip. When you have chronic allergies, a cold, or excessive congestion, your body produces extra mucus to flush out allergens and viruses.
Sometimes, if your body makes too much mucus, you can develop something called postnasal drip when mucus runs from your nose and sinus cavity down your throat.
Mucus is like a net that catches and traps the allergens, bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms you inhale and ingest throughout the day. So, when you have postnasal drip, the bacteria in your mucus can get caught in and around your tonsils, where they colonize and form tonsil stones.
Often, taking medications such as decongestants, mucus thinners, antihistamines, and xylitol nasal sprays can help you get rid of the mucus that causes tonsil stones.
In addition, using a hydrogen peroxide solution to gargle can break down any mucus that has become lodged in your throat. However, it’ll also kill bacteria and reduce your bad breath.
Sometimes, tonsil stones can be triggered and exacerbated by your diet too. The bacteria that cause tonsil stones need a dry, oxygen-free environment to grow and thrive.
And the Standard American Diet provides quite the breeding ground.
Foods and drinks such as caffeine, sugar, carbonated beverages, and alcohol can dry out your throat and decrease saliva production. When your throat is dry, it’s much more hospitable to anaerobic bacterial growth.
Husky foods — like popcorn, nuts, and seeds — and hard foods — like chips and crackers — can easily irritate your tonsils and get caught in the folds of your throat, inviting bacteria to live on your tonsils. Opting for soft, warm, liquidy foods like cooked pasta, soup, mashed potatoes can soothe your tonsils and help you remove your stones.
Other foods that can help you get rid of your tonsil stones are apples, carrots, garlic, onions, yogurt, and vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. All of these foods will boost your immune system, fight the bacteria in your tonsils, and provide you with the probiotics you need to resupply your mouth with healthy cultures.
In fact, this topic is covered on my diet tips for tonsil stones here.
Swollen or Irritated Tonsils
If you have tonsillitis or inflammation of the tonsils, you’re more likely to develop tonsil stones.
Tonsils are like sponges that absorb bacteria, microorganisms, and fungi from the air, food, and water you bring into your body; which is why I often recommend using a water flosser to flush them out regularly.
When bacteria settle in the folds of your tonsils, they get irritated and try to fight off the infection, often forming tonsil stones in the process.
If you have enlarged or inflamed tonsils, they’re more likely to trap bacteria since swollen tonsils have more crevices and craters than smaller, healthy tonsils. Tonsillitis is also a sign that your immunity has decreased, making them much more prone to infections like tonsil stones.
The more creases and crevices your tonsils have, and the larger they are, the more likely you are to develop tonsil stones.
There are some medical treatments, such as laser cryptolysis and coblation cryptolysis, that reduce the number of crypts or crevices in your tonsils.
Increased Mouth Breathing
Being a “mouth-breather” isn’t just a cute insult by a telekinetic mystery girl anymore (Stranger Things reference, check).
Tonsil stones can suddenly increase if you’ve recently started breathing through your mouth more. If you breathe through your mouth at night or have recently started snoring, your tonsil stones may be a symptom of a more significant underlying problem.
Conditions like sinus disorders or sleep apnea could block your nasal airways, forcing you to breathe in through your mouth.
When you breathe through your mouth, microorganisms in the air enter your mouth and throat, making it more likely that airborne bacteria will colonize your tonsils.
Mouth breathing also dries out your throat, which helps anaerobic bacteria grow and thrive as well.
So, if you’ve noticed that you started breathing through your mouth more and have even more tonsil stones, you may want to visit your doctor to ensure that you don’t have a more serious respiratory problem.
Weakened Immune System
When you get a bacterial infection on your tonsils, your body sends white blood cells to fight the invaders. The white blood cells attack the bacteria, and as they die, they form whitish clumps of dead cells.
These dead cells are tonsil stones, and they’re a sign of a healthy immune reaction to your infection. However, if your body cannot kill off the bacteria, your tonsil stones may keep coming back or get larger.
When you’re immunocompromised, your body has more trouble eliminating infections and flushing out bacteria. People with auto-immune diseases, chronic illnesses, diseases that affect their immune systems are much more prone to getting tonsil stones.
Getting a common cold or the flu can also compromise your immune system. So, if you suddenly have tonsil stones right after getting over an illness, your body might just be having trouble eliminating the illness.
Do you suspect you have tonsil stones as a result of an immune deficiency? If so, there are several things you can do to help your body eliminate infections. For example, eating foods such as garlic and onions can kill the bacteria in your throat.
Yogurt and other probiotic-rich foods can also cultivate healthy bacteria that will fight the infection around your tonsils. Getting plenty of vitamins and water can also help your body flush out harmful bacteria and trigger healthy immune responses.
There are many reasons tonsil stones can form, but above all, they’re a sign of a bacterial infection in your throat.
To fight this infection, you may want to improve your oral hygiene routine, change your diet, or treat other conditions like allergies or tonsillitis.
Boosting your immune system also helps your body eliminate the bacteria that cause tonsil stones. No matter what causes your tonsil stones, taking care of your body is sure to get rid of them for good.