I’m stuck on ideas for my fiction work, so I’m trying a more bloggy article, about the only thing I can think about all day long because one is stuck in my throat.
Tonsil stones (tonsilloliths) are gross little gobs of gunk, basically the stuff that builds up on your teeth, but it’s stuck in holes in your tonsils, and there’s no standardized removal process like there is for teeth cleaning.
Growing up, I never knew where they came from – I’ve never seen them in place, but I observed that shoving my toothbrush back there forcing myself to gag would sometimes produce these things. At one point I randomly came across an article online and I was like “ohhhhhhh that’s what those are!” It was a very enlightening experience.
I have never noticed a smell associated with these things, which is supposed to be a defining characteristic, so I feel like my experiences have been lacking. But that could be because I have constant post nasal drip and can’t smell well most of the time.
Now, the reason I’m writing this is that I’ve been feeling a stone in my throat for a year or more. I suspect it may be in the lingual tonsil behind the tongue (not the palatinates that are usually blamed). I wonder if my stones have always come from down there, since I’ve never seen one in its natural habitat. I can feel the sharp edges to one side of the throat. Sometimes I feel it shift in place, but never enough to knock it out, and it simply rocks back into its crevice. It sucks.
The psychological toll is severe. I am always thinking about it. Multiple times a day I lock myself in the bathroom to stick things down my throat. My family thinks I’m bulimic. I have yet to convince a doctor that it’s a problem.
Virtually every tonsil stone article online – all being a rehash of each other, and clearly all written by someone who has never had a tonsil stone stuck in their throat – resorts to victim-blaming (buzzword!): “It’s your own stupid fault, you lazy slob. Brush your teeth and it won’t be a problem, dummy.”
Brushing teeth is NOT the only factor, as these articles would have you believe! (Okay, sometimes it’s mentioned, but as an afterthought and definitely NOT as a primary cause.) But plenty of gunk drips down your throat from your nose, and breathing through your mouth (which you’ll probably be doing if you have post nasal drip!) dries things out and makes a better atmosphere for tonsil stones. You can have perfect teeth and still be screwed.
There is very little actual science on tonsil stones, but a handful of widely-held beliefs. If this post happens to be the first thing you read about tonsil stones, allow me to summarize the helpful removal hints in every other article out there:
-Stick something in your throat; or
-Gargle with something; or
-Brush your teeth, you idiot; or
-Just eat fruits and vegetables, or better yet, eat nothing at all; or
-Contradictory advice: Either avoid dairy like the plague, or DO eat yogurt for the magical probiotics.
Though it sounds very science-y, the idea that dairy increases mucus (and should therefore be avoided to prevent tonsil stones) is indeed a myth! Scientific studies do not support this old wives’ tale. (I’m a Wisconsin girl. You can’t take my cheese away that easily.)
As for the probiotics, this tip is made up. There have been no studies on the relationship between tonsil stones and the probiotics in yogurt – odds are that this is wishful thinking. Same deal with things like onion, garlic, and essential oils.
If you have stones that are visible, you’ve probably got them out already because it’s not that hard and you don’t need a tutorial to tell you to jab something back there. If you’re researching it and reading posts like this, chances are you have stubborn ones that aren’t going anywhere, and you’re desperate for any tidbit of information that could possibly alleviate your discomfort.
Bad news, you can try all the suggestions (and they are worth trying, just in case), but if you have deep stones that aren’t visible, it’s a shot in the dark. It’s not your fault that you can’t get them. Your personal tonsil anatomy may be against you.
Do I have any advice for fellow hidden tonsil stone sufferers? Not really, except to let you know you’re not alone. I just wanted to rant about shortcomings I feel are present in the existing tonsil stone literature.
What are your tonsil stone experiences? Let me know in the comments below.