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Health Team

Tonsil stones can cause bad breath

Posted January 5, 2009 1:29 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

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.

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."