Health Team

Tonsil stones can cause bad breath

Posted January 5, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

A quick and painless new procedure might help thousands of people get rid of bad breath.

Renee Beckler was among those who had battled halitosis – or bad breath – for years. She experimented with many different ways to get rid of it.

"I have tried Listerine mouthwash, tongue scraping, oral picks, keeping my mouth clean, eating healthy, less dairy – still the same issues," Beckler said.

New, painless procedure fights bad breath New, painless procedure fights bad breath

Often, chronic bad breath is caused by bacteria on the tongue, gums or between teeth, and a visit to a dentist can help with those causes.

However, doctors discovered that Beckler had tonsil stones – tiny stones found in pockets of the tonsils, causing a foul, rotten-egg odor.

"You really have to get to the root of the problem and treat the gas-forming bacteria," Dr. Yosef Krespi, with St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York, said.

Tonsil stones can't be self-medicated, so Beckler elected to undergo a procedure called laser ablation.

After numbing a patient's throat, doctors burn the stones with a laser in less than 20 minutes. Patients are left with a slightly sore throat, little recovery time and no bleeding.

"The success rate is very high simply because we're eradicating the biofilm or the tonsil stone from that particular pocket," Krespi said.

In almost all cases, the stones stay away for good and don't grow back.

"I had tried everything, so for me, it was the only option," Beckler said. "And it has proven very effective."


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  • momnay Jan 7, 2009

    I've had these for years and never knew what they were called or what caused them. Good information - thanks

  • KniftyKnitter Jan 6, 2009

    OMG! I just did a google image search and ewwwwwww! Don't do this around dinner time!! My tonsil stones are no where near as big as what was pictured on some of those sites. If I had 'em like that, I'd have my tonsils removed...forget the laser procedure! JayJay....there's NO WAY you couldn't diagnose those babies!!!

  • KniftyKnitter Jan 6, 2009

    I have these all the time. I don't have halitosis, though, as it doesn't always cause that. While tonsil stones can't be self-medicated, they can be self-treated. I just use a q-tip and push them out when I see one on my tonsil. And, yes, they do smell AWFUL!!! I tried to use a WaterPik, but that made me gag.

    Oh, BTW, tonsil stones aren't hard little rocks in your tonsils...they're way softer than that.

    Usually, people who don't have tonsil stones have a hard time understanding why people get them and what they are. It's not a cleanliness issue.

    JayJay.....based on my personal experience, it'd be hard not to know you have tonsil stones. They're pretty obvious and easy to spot on your tonsils. can also search for the medical term....tonsilloliths.

  • LMRA Jan 6, 2009

    Where was this procedure in 1965 when I had my tonsils removed for this exact reason??? OH YEAH there were no lasers back then! My Mother says my breath was n-a-s-t-y!!! Went away as soon as they removed them!

  • canesnut Jan 6, 2009

    I get these things!!! I had never heard of them before this report, but it explains something that's been bugging me for years.

    After seeing this, I have done quite a bit of reading up on them today and I may just see if I can keep myself cleared of them on my own.

    Thanks Dr. Mask!

  • JayJay Jan 6, 2009

    SO how do you diagnose them?

  • ONEHARDHEAD Jan 6, 2009

    MrGup2, I've been meaning to talk to you about that...

  • TheDude abides... Jan 6, 2009

    I hope my breath never gets so bad that I will be the subject of a news article.

  • TeresaBee Jan 6, 2009

    I hope my breath never gets that bad that I have to have this procedure. Yikes!