Lifelong Bad Breath
Due To Tonsil Stones,
But No Way To Fix It?

(Burbank, CA)

I'm 22, and I've had tonsil stones all my life as far back as I can remember. I've always coughed up those chunks, but I didn't know anything was seriously wrong. I thought it was normal!

My family's always complained to me about my bad breath, and I would constantly brush my teeth and floss to try to fix it. No hope... but a few months ago, I discovered just what those white chunks were and that tonsil stones are the cause of my lifelong bad breath. I'm trying everything in my power to prevent them.

Fortunately, my boyfriend tolerates it somehow and is supportive - I'm really not sure how he puts up with it.

I'm trying NOT to get my tonsils removed, but when I've tried everything, and if it comes down to that, I won't hesitate to book an appointment!

The problem is that I cannot physically remove them. I've tried everything but a Water Pik. My tonsils are VERY deep back in my throat and it's hard to reach them. I can barely see them when I shine a flashlight in there. I've tried poking them and have attempted to squeeze them out, but I can't reach them. I'm afraid if I push too hard, I might do more damage than good.

I have this constant feeling in the back of my throat from my nose, which I think might be the source of the problem. I know it's gross, but I suppose it's mucus? I tried a nasal drip spray to try to fix it, but it seemed to make it worse.

I'm trying so hard to fix this, but I don't want to end up spending more money on stuff I don't need when I don't really know how to fix it. Should I see an ear, nose, and throat specialist? Should I just get my tonsils removed?

Gary's Response: Your boyfriend sounds like a good man, so let’s see what we can do to give both of you some relief and maybe even make your problem with tonsil stones and bad breath go away completely.

The good news is that there are several potential solutions for you, but first I want to give you some information as to what’s causing the problem. There are actually two problems, so it stands to reason that there are two causes.

The first problem is the bad breath. The cause of bad breath in nearly all situations, and especially where tonsil stones are involved, is an overabundance of Anaerobic Bacteria (Click hyperlink for full explanation).

When kept under control, these micro-organisms are good to have around. They help the digestive process get started by breaking down proteins. Unfortunately, this process generates some smelly byproducts, and if too many of them are present in the mouth, bad breath can result.

The other problem is, of course, the presence of tonsil stones. (For more detailed information about tonsil stones, click here. )

The surface of your tonsils is covered with small pockets, or crypts. Some tonsils are smooth with shallow crypts while others are rough with deep crypts. If the crypts are large enough, debris may become lodged in them.

Typically, the trapped debris consists of food particles, dead oral tissue cells, post-nasal-drip mucous (which is rich in proteins), and various bacteria, including the anaerobic bacteria referred to above. This debris is recognized by the body as being foreign, which attacks it with white blood cells. The result is a white or yellowish, cauliflower-shaped tonsil stone that usually tastes horrible and smells atrocious.

Based on this information, I see your options being as follows, ranked from lowest to highest in terms of expense:

1. Since the anaerobic bacteria cannot thrive in an oxygen-rich environment, use a good oxygenating tooth gel, oral rinse, and sinus drops. Most store-bought pastes, mouth washes, and sinus sprays dry out your mucous membranes. Those anaerobic bacteria love a dry mouth. I recommend TheraBreath products as they are formulated in a way that will deliver oxygen to the places where the bacteria live and will not cause dry mouth. Although the bad breath will begin to improve immediately, if you go this route, you will need to allow some time, perhaps several months, before you feel an impact on the tonsil stones.

2. In your post above, you mentioned the possibility of using a Water Pik. These devices have been used successfully to remove tonsil stones. If you decide to try this, first test it carefully on the lowest setting. What some people have done is to modify one of the tips, enlarging the opening slightly with a Dremel Moto-Tool or other similar device. Doing so will reduce the pressure and make it gentler on the tonsil tissue. If you decide to go this route, consider purchasing TheraBreath Aktiv Oxygen to use in the Water Pik’s reservoir. This will help speed up the delivery of oxygen to your tonsil crypts.

3. Combination of numbers 1 and 2 above.

4. Much less invasive than a tonsillectomy is laser resurfacing, a laser tonsillectomy, laser cryptolysis, or whatever you prefer to call it. As I understand this procedure (and I admit my knowledge about this is limited), the tonsil crypts are cleaned out and then sealed off, giving you a smooth tonsil surface incapable of harboring future tonsil stones. The TV show, The Doctors, featured an episode on Cryptolysis. Here’s the link:

If you decide to go this route, you’re likely to have trouble finding someone who performs the procedure. My recommendation is to start calling dentists, ENT’s, snoring clinics, and laser eye surgery centers. If they tell you they don’t perform the procedure, ask if they know who does or if they know of a resource from which you might obtain this information. Also there’s a new site,, which appears to be building a state-by-state directory. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the directory yet, but there is other info on the site which may be of value.

5. Always a last resort, at least in my mind, is a full-blown tonsillectomy. Unless you have great insurance, it’s going to cost you some money. The risks are greater at your age than they would be for a child. The recovery time, at your age, is measured in weeks instead of days. If you decide to go this route, make sure you use an ENT who is willing to have a thorough discussion regarding the risks.

I hope you find this information helpful and that you'll post back to let us know what you decide, how things are going, etc.

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