What are Tonsils?
Tonsils are small white, bean-shaped organs located at the back of your throat. They serve as filters to remove dead cells from the air. When you swallow food or liquid, it passes through your mouth and down into your stomach where it’s broken down further before being absorbed into your blood stream. If there are bacteria present in the air, they will get trapped inside your throat and then travel up into your lungs where they cause infections.
The most common types of tonsils are adenoid (large), tonsillar (small) and parotid (tiny). Adenoids are found on either side of the nose while tonsils start just above the top part of each ear. Parotids are found on the roof of your mouth behind your upper teeth.
Types of Tonsils Symptoms
There are several different kinds of tonsils. Some have no symptoms while others may cause mild discomfort when they’re touched or rubbed. There are three main types: adenoid, tonsillar and parotid.
All have their own symptoms which depend upon how much bacteria are present in the air and what kind of tonsil it is.
Tonsillitis is the swelling of one or both tonsils due to an infection. It usually affects younger children and teenagers as their immune systems aren’t as strong as adults. Food or liquid gets trapped inside the tonsil causing infection which causes it to swell up.
A throat culture may be taken to determine what kind of bacteria has infected the tonsil which will help to choose a suitable medication.
Swollen tonsils can cause difficulty in swallowing food or drink.
A sore throat often occurs and is very painful if the tonsils are touched.
Bad breath is also a common side effect of having tonsillitis. This is due to stagnant bacteria getting trapped inside the tonsil and releasing foul toxins into your throat.
Difficulty in breathing through the nose may also occur.
The only symptom is the tonsil itself may be swollen. It appears redder than normal and feels slightly softer than the other tonsil on that side.
Painful lumps under the jaw which can also be itchy can occur when the parotid tonsil swells up.
This may cause the ear to become more painful as these lumps rub against the ear when eating or opening your mouth widely.
How to Get Rid of a Tonsil Stone
There are several ways you can effectively get rid of tonsil stones. One way is to gargle with salt water or chew strong mint gum after eating. This can help to loosen and clear out the bacteria causing the stones in your tonsils.
Drinking lemon, apple or grapefruit juice can also help as the acid kills off bacteria. However, some people find the acids in these fruits cause more irritation and worsen the problem.
You can also try a stronger solution such as Listerine. Gargle with the liquid or put a few drops on a cotton swab and leave it wedged inside your tonsil for five minutes. Neither option is particularly pleasant and both can cause your throat to become extremely dry so don’t attempt to do anything which requires saliva such as swallowing for at least half an hour after doing this as your throat will still be too dry.
One final tip is to avoid spicy foods as these can irritate your tonsils and make the problem worse.
How to Clean Tonsils
Unfortunately, there is no way to eliminate your tonsils. They are part of your immune system and help to fight infection and keep bacteria out of your body. You can however learn how to take better care of them and reduce the number of stones you produce.
This can be done in a few different ways.
One option is to use stronger mouthwashes more often. These can be quite harsh on your mouth and dry out your saliva so be careful when using this method. Try gargling with Listerine after every meal.
Another good alternative is Oil of Cloves which is an anesthetic that also kills off bacteria.
Another way is to improve the health of your immune system as a whole. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit to improve the health of your entire body. Also, try to keep your stress levels low as this can affect your immune system.
The most obvious way is to remove the tonsil stones you already have. The above techniques can be used for this as well as other home remedies such as:
Salt Water – gargle with warm salty water
Garlic – chew a clove of garlic, the taste is awful but it can help to break down tonsil stones
Manuka Honey – coat a cotton swab with manuka honey and leave inside your throat as long as possible.
Apple Cider Vinegar – mix with water 50/50 and gargle
Ways to Prevent Tonsil Stones
The most obvious way to prevent tonsil stones is to not get them in the first place. There are however some steps you can take to drastically reduce how many you get and how large they grow before you flush them out.
The most important thing you can do it ensure that any dead cells, mucus or food scraps get washed away from the crypts of your tonsils and far away from the areas where tonsil stones like to form. It is vital to clean out the areas in the crevasses of your tonsils on a regular basis.
2. Don’t Overload Your Mouth with Food
If you eat a very large meal it stretches your jaw and mouth wide which can cause the openings of your crypts to stretch wide as well. This increases the chances of debris getting stuck inside. Additionally, if you are prone to grinding your teeth at night you can inadvertently crush up any food caught in the crypts and create tonsil stones very quickly.
3. Gargle with an Antiseptic Mouthwash
After eating, especially if you eat a lot or food that is high in fat, it is wise to gargle with an antiseptic mouthwash to kill off any bacteria that may have settled on your tonsils.
4. Use a WaterPik
These devices effectively break up any caught on debris on your tongue, back of the tongue and in your crypts. If you suffer from frequent buildup, this device will make maintenance a lot easier and can keep you from getting tonsil stones.
5. Hold Your Head at a Lower Angle
Try not to lay down after eating if you can as this will allow food matter and bacteria to more easily settle on your tonsils. It is best to sit propped up and hold your head at a downward angle for a period of time after eating. This allows any food to slide down the throat slowly and prevents it from settling in the wrong places.
6. Gargle with Water After Eating or Drinking
This is a good habit to get into anyway as it helps to shift any food particles caught in the back of the throat which can otherwise turn into tonsil stones.
7. Chew Gum After Eating
This is a good idea anyway to prevent tooth decay and it also encourages salivation which washes food debris away from your throat. Additionally, the act of chewing prompts the muscles in your mouth to contract and force saliva out which washes food particles off the tongue, teeth and gums.
8. Cut Out Sugary Foods and Drinks
Sugary foods and drinks provide an excellent breeding ground for bacteria. Especially high fructose corn syrup which is in an alarming amount of processed foods and drinks. Foods that are high in fat such as milkshakes, ice cream and pizza should also be limited.
9. Clean Your Mattress
If you suffer from tonsil stones and sleep directly on your mattress I have some bad news for you! You need to be cleaning your mattress regularly, especially the areas you sleep on with a protective barrier. You can buy a mattress cover to prevent any debris from settling into the mattress, which makes cleaning it a lot easier.
10. Use a WaterPik on Your Tongue and Throat
This device effectively breaks up and washes away any dead cells, mucus or food scraps that have built up on your tongue and in your throat. This can be really effective in reducing the amount of debris you are swallowing and so helping to prevent tonsil stones from forming.
11. Increase Your Daily Water Intake
To flush out your whole system and keep it running smoothly you should aim for around 3 liters of water a day. Water not only keeps the body hydrated but also washes away harmful toxins and waste.
12. Increase Your Daily Intake of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant which helps to protect and repair the linings of your mouth, throat and digestive tract. It also supports the healing process of any damaged tissues and reduces inflammation in the body. Foods rich in vitamin C include kiwi fruit, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts and strawberries.
13. Increase Your Intake of Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Inflammation is part of the body’s natural healing process but can be accelerated by disease, infection, toxicity and poor diet. Some common inflammatory foods to avoid are sugar, refined flour, alcohol, trans-fats and fried foods. Foods that fight inflammation include oats, tomatoes, spinach and garlic.
14. Gargle with a Baking Soda and Water Mixture
Baking soda is a dry powder which can absorb moisture and help draw out excess fluids from tissues in the mouth. It is an effective natural remedy for reducing swollen tonsils or other mouth and throat infections such as strep. Mixing a spoonful of baking soda in a small glass of water and gargling a few times a day can help to dry up any phlegm or pus that has built up in the throat.
15. Gargle with Salt Water
You can also gargle with warm water and a pinch of salt to help with swollen or painful tonsils. The salt water helps to draw out any infected mucus in the throat and soothes any sores.
16. Try Chewing on Some Ginger
Ginger is an effective natural painkiller and anti-inflammatory and can help relieve some of the pain and discomfort caused by swollen tonsils. You can chew on a small piece of ginger root to release its juices, or better still, make a ginger tea by slowly simmering thin slices of ginger root in water for 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool and drink throughout the day.
17. Use a Straw to Drink
Using a straw can help to avoid any contact with the mucus and pus that has built up in your throat.
18. Practice Good Hygiene
Good hygiene can go a long way in helping to prevent infection and keep any sores or open wounds clean. Washing your hands after touching your face, covering any mouth sores when you are sick and cleaning any cuts or scrapes can all help to ward off any potential problems.
19. Try an Over The Counter Pain Killer
If you find that your tonsils are becoming increasingly painful or you have difficulty swallowing, you can try taking an over the counter pain killer. As a warning however, many pills and tablets can contribute to dehydration so it is recommended to drink plenty of fluids when taking them.
20. See a Doctor If Needed
If you find that your tonsillitis is becoming infected and you are suffering from a very high fever or extreme pain then you may need to see a doctor. You may be prescribed antibiotics to kill off any infection. In the meantime you should continue to drink plenty of fluids and take it easy.
21. Check for Allergies
Some people are unknowingly allergic to particular foods and as the tonsils are often the first defense against intruders you may find that if you eat something you are allergic to, they swell up dramatically. If you think you have a food allergy, see your doctor who can recommend specific allergy tests to determine what you should avoid.
22. Boost Your Immune System
Your immune system can often fight off any potential problems before they become apparent so it makes sense to look after your immune system by eating well, getting enough rest and avoiding excessive stress. If you know you are going to come into contact with people who are sick, make sure you wash your hands afterwards.
23. Tonsil Stones
If you suffer from tonsil stones, a simple way to prevent them from recurring is to gently brush your tonsils using an infant nasal aspirator or a rubber pet grooming brush once or twice a day. You may also want to gargle with salt water or use other natural remedies to help combat any infection or swelling in your tonsils.
24. Dental Fillings
If you have dental crowns or gold fillings then you may find that they are the cause of your tonsil problems. The heat that is generated by these can exacerbate the swelling in your tonsils, so you may need to see a dentist and opt for other types of filling which do not have this effect.
25. Cosmetic Surgery
If the tonsillitis or swelling in your tonsils is extensive enough then your doctor may recommend that you have the tonsils removed altogether. This is quite a simple procedure and once healed, you shouldn’t have any long term issues with your voice or swallowing.
Removing the tonsils can also help to prevent any further problems with recurring tonsillitis as bacteria and viruses cannot take root and settle in the tonsils as easily if they are not there.
26. No More Tonsils
If you have your tonsils removed then you no longer need to worry about keeping them clean or taking care of them in any way, this can be a great relief if you find the recommended ways to keep them clean are simply not effective for you.
If you do have your tonsils removed then this is a big operation and you will need to take time to recover and rest afterwards. Make sure you have someone to help you at home for a few days and take it easy for as long as your doctor recommends. You should be able to start eating and drinking again without too much discomfort but your throat will probably be very sore and you may find that swallowing is painful for the first few days.
28. Physical Effects
As well as dealing with the pain of a very sore throat, you may also find that other physical effects of the surgery are very prominent. One of these is the positioning of the tongue which after the removal of the tonsils tends to sit higher in the throat resulting in a much deeper voice.
This change in the voice can be quite startling at first. You may also find that swallowing is much more difficult for the first few days, you may want to take it easy on any food or drinks that require you to swallow as it can be extremely painful until the wound heals.
29. Pain Relief
Most doctors will prescribe pain medication after the surgery, and it is important to take these as prescribed because if taken in excess they can cause nausea and constipation. It is also important that you do not take any aspirin based products because these can cause the bleeding to start again. If the bleeding does start again, you should contact your doctor immediately.
30. Making a Comeback
If you suffer from severe cases of tonsil stones then undergoing a tonsillectomy can be the best course of action for you. People often fear the operation itself but with advances in anesthetic techniques, it is not a particularly lengthy or involved process these days and most people make a complete recovery within a week or two.
Following the surgery, you should find that any tonsil stones or problems associated with them are completely eliminated from your life and you can get on with enjoying good health.
Sources & references used in this article:
Tonsillar Cyst in esophagus by W Sun, HL Xiao, DF Chen – Journal of Case Reports, 2016 – journalofcasereport.com
Cysts of the Tonsils, Nose, Larynx, and Ear by P McBride – British medical journal, 1892 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Cysts of the Tonsils by P McBride – British Medical Journal, 1892 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Meeting II.—December 2, 1891: Cysts of the Tonsils, Nose, Larynx, and Ear by P M’Bride – Transactions. Medico-Chirurgical Society of Edinburgh, 1892 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Human papillomavirus and cystic node metastasis in oropharyngeal cancer and cancer of unknown primary origin by T Yasui, E Morii, Y Yamamoto, T Yoshii, Y Takenaka… – PLoS …, 2014 – journals.plos.org
The Formation of Cysts in the Faucial and Pharyngeal Tonsils by JL GOODALE – The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 1901 – Mass Medical Soc
A Dental Cyst Involving the Nose by EDD Davis – 1918 – journals.sagepub.com