Why Tonsil Stones Cause You To Have Bad Breath

Oral hygiene is an essential, though sometimes overlooked, part of physical health. Poor oral hygiene can lead to several diseases and illnesses that extend far beyond the mouth, such as heart disease, pneumonia, and pregnancy and birth complications (per Mayo Clinic). One 2016 study published in the journal Periodontology 2000 even suggested that human lifespan can be predicted by the number of teeth a person has. The fewer teeth an older adult has, the more likely their lifespan will be shortened.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends caring for oral health by brushing and flossing daily, avoiding smoking or using tobacco products, and visiting the dentist annually for cleanings and check-ups. These practices only focus on the teeth and gums, however, ignoring the tonsils.

Many people rarely pay attention to their tonsils, until they experience tonsillitis or another condition affecting these lymph nodes. However, tonsils can sometimes develop small stones that, when left untreated, may cause bad breath.

How tonsil stones cause foul-smelling breath

Tonsilloliths, or tonsil stones, are small masses that get trapped in the tonsils, according to WebMD. They're made of bacteria and other debris, such as dead cells and mucus, that eventually calcify. And besides throat soreness and irritation, one of the most common symptoms of these stones is bad breath.

Everyday Health explains that the odor that often accompanies tonsil stones is caused by the bacteria lodged in and around the stones. The bacteria produce sulfur compounds, resulting in a distinct foul smell.

The best way to prevent this odor in the mouth is to prevent tonsil stones from forming in the first place. Cleveland Clinic suggests gargling with salt water and using a water flosser device to remove remaining debris. If stones have already made their way into your tonsils, you can also gently remove them with a cotton swab.

If tonsil stones — and bad breath — persist, visit a dentist for additional treatment options. In severe cases, they may recommend surgically removing the tonsils to prevent stones from forming again.