Tonsil Stones Hit Mainstream Media

October 9, 2009

Tonsil stones, the small globs of mucus, dead cells and other oral debris that collect in the tonsillar crypts, have hit the mainstream media. An article authored by Elizabeth Svoboda and first published in the New York Times on August 31, 2009, examines the causes and consequences of the stones, including their propensity for causing particularly offensive bad breath when anaerobic bacteria in the oral cavity feed on the stones and release foul-smelling sulfur compounds as byproducts.

Tonsil stones are apparently common, but no one knows for sure how many people suffer from them worldwide. According to a 2007 French study cited by Svoboda in her article, roughly six percent of participants had calcified stones. Dr. Harald Katz, a dentist in Los Angeles and the author of the Bad Breath Bible, suspects the incidence of tonsil stones in the adult population to be much higher, in large part because the number of tonsillectomies performed has declined significantly since the operation’s heyday in the 1950s and 1960s.

While a tonsillectomy almost always puts a permanent stop to tonsil stones, most doctors view surgery to remove the tonsils as a last resort solution for most adults. Gargling with a non-alcoholic mouthwash and using a Waterpik or other oral irrigator to remove the stones are frequently recommended therapies. Katz also recommends the use of an oxygenating oral rinse to kill anaerobic bacteria in the mouth, along with a nasal sinus spray to reduce the post nasal drip that feeds mucus to the tonsil crypts. He bundles the products in a tonsil stones starter kit sold at his website,

The full text of Svoboda’s article, “In Tonsils, a Problem the Size of a Pea”, is available here.


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