Tonsil stones, medically known as tonsilloliths, may form if dead skin cells, food debris, or mucus gets trapped in the tonsils and calcifies (hardens). Patients with tonsil stones often experience pain while swallowing, eating, or drinking, and swelling might also be present. Tonsil stones typically cause a feeling of an obstruction at the top of the throat, and patients could notice persistent bad breath. If the stones become very large, they could lead to breathing difficulties. Since the symptoms associated with tonsil stones may sometimes be caused by a more serious condition, patients who notice stones should be examined by a healthcare provider. This is especially important if the patient is experiencing neck pain or swelling, difficulty speaking or swallowing, and an inability to tolerate citrus. A medical evaluation is also essential if bloody saliva occurs or if one tonsil is larger than the other.
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One of the simplest and most important methods of preventing tonsil stones is to stay hydrated. When individuals aren't drinking enough water, more debris can accumulate on the tonsils without being washed away. If individuals already have tonsil stones, staying hydrated is a vital part of treating them as well. Patients can gargle warm salt water to start dissolving the stones. Experts also recommend gargling with a mouthwash free of alcohol. One of the problems with alcoholic mouthwashes is they dry out the mouth. So if an individual does use a mouthwash with alcohol, they need to drink extra water to make sure bacteria doesn't grow. The drier the mouth, the greater the chances of bacterial growth on the tonsils. Some medications can cause dry mouth, so patients should make sure they're sipping water throughout the day if they're prescribed one of these. Water is the best liquid for staying hydrated, but other drinks are acceptable if water isn't an option.
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