Tonsil stones are white or yellow bits that form in the tonsils due to bacteria in the mouth combining with the mouth’s biofilm. After the bacteria in the mouth feeds on the small food particles and debris found within the tonsil crypts, they’re leftoverscalcify and become lodged in the pockets and cavities of the tonsils.
As a part of the lymph system, the tonsils are rarely noticed when they are functioning properly. However, when they become infected or when tonsil stones set in, they tend to enlarge and become painful.
Also referred to as tonsilloliths, they are frequently misdiagnosed (most think they have tonsillitis) and very common. Many people have them and aren’t even aware that they are there – it can be quite alarming when they cough them up. Most wonder “are tonsil stones contagious?”
Since this material interacts with the mouths own bacteria, the stones aren’t contagious, however, there are many factors to consider in regards to tonsil stones.
Although some people make the choice to have their tonsils out, there are other ways to deal with tonsil stones that won’t require a tonsillectomy. You can start by rinsing out the mouth well after meals. Consider a daily gargle with one-half teaspoon of salt to four ounces of warm water.
Be sure that when gargling the tonsils are thoroughly rinsed with the gargle. Make sure that the person spits the solution out of the mouth after gargling to ensure the debris goes down the drain and not down the throat – after all, you don’t want to swallow all the bacteria do you?
Often this is enough to eliminate tonsil stones. However, some stones are far more stubborn and will require more rinses to have them removed. For instances such as this you can try using a water flosser.
There are little motorised devices that squirt out pressurised streams of water and even though they are intended for flossing the teeth, they are great at digging out tonsil stones. You just need to be careful however, they can be quite powerful and could cause you some harm if you have sensitive gums.
Just make sure you test it out before use and you should be fine.
As the tonsil stones aren’t contagious, the person can’t give them to another person via kissing or sharing eating utensils.
However, the bacteria that is in the mouth could make them prone to other illnesses or conditions so if there are tonsil stones present, it would be wise to refrain from kissing to avoid giving any viruses to another person.
How to Tell if You Have Them
Many people are unaware that they have tonsil stones. They can hide behind the tonsils or in other areas that aren’t readily visible to the eye. There are many crypts or pockets in the tonsils that can’t be seen and these are tucked behind folds of skin in the tonsils.
One sign of tonsil stones besides being able to see them is bad breath or halitosis. This odour or bad breath is caused when the tonsil stones come into contact with the air. The sulfur of the bacteria is released and causes the bad breath.
This alone can be very off-putting to someone who wishes to kiss a person with tonsil stones. According to the National Centre for Biotechnology, as many as 75% of the population has tonsil stones or high levels of sulfur in their mouths.
Those who have a lot of throat infections are more prone to tonsil stones than others due to the bacteria that is caused by these infections.
Tonsil stones themselves are made up of dead organisms (bacteria) and collagen and give off a very pungent odour. It’s strongly recommended not to pick them up if they are coughed up or out of the mouth and to simply rinse them down the sink. Otherwise, the odour can be released and will be even stronger and it’s very hard to get rid of.
Proper oral care by rinsing the mouth daily and keeping an eye out for visible tonsil stones and bad breath can go far in helping to alleviate tonsil stones. Even though they’re not contagious, they’re very off-putting and no one should be kissing if they have them due to the bacteria levels in the mouth.