Yes, a Waterpik water flosser can be used to help treat tonsil stones.
One of the best options is the Waterpik WP-660UK Ultra Professional Water Flosser.
Whilst a Waterpik can be of benefit to you, there are more things to understand and consider in the decision process. Please read on to learn more.
|Waterpik WP-660 Ultra Professional Water Flosser||592 Reviews||£79.99 £72.49||View on Amazon|
What are tonsil stones?
A tonsil stone is a solid lump found at the back of the mouth and made up of bacteria, mucus, food and dead cells that have calcified. A medical professional may refer to them as tonsilloliths.
What causes tonsil stones?
The cause of tonsil stones is bacteria and other debris such as food getting caught in tiny gaps and crevices, on the surface of the tonsils.
These crevices are known as ‘tonsillar crypts’.
Crypts are perfectly normal and nothing to be concerned about. Part of your immune system, they are designed to offer a maximum surface area to lure in bad bacteria, to in turn fight it off and keep you healthy.
The crypts gather debris from your mouth – small amounts of food and bacteria for example.
These soft, often microscopic particles, clump together and harden, to form a small solid lump, thanks to the calcification process. This causes the lump to normally turn a whitish/yellow colour.
The hardness of the lump give is a stone like feel.
Tonsil stones are usually just a couple of millimeters in size.
Larger stones measuring 1-2cm are possible, but they are rare.
One of the largest recorded tonsil stones was documented in a 2018 report as measuring 3.1 x 2.1 cm.
What are the symptoms of tonsil stones?
It is quite normal to show no symptoms and one day realise you have these stone like lumps on and within your tonsils. Your dentist or doctor may even point them out when having a look inside your mouth.
However, possible symptoms include:
- A feeling of something stuck at the back of your throat
- White lumps
- Perhaps the most obvious sign of their presence. If when taking a good look at the back of your mouth, you see white spots or lumps, these could be individual tonsil stones. They are not always visible, they can be small and hidden in crypts out of your line of sight.
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- This can be caused by the stones themselves which are a collection of bacteria. But seeing as tonsil stone can be caused by failing to brush and clean the tongue regularly, the bacteria on the surface of the tongue can also give off an odor and cause bad breath. If you suffer with bad breath, despite regular tongue cleaning, this could be a sign of tonsil stones.
- Sore throat
- As you might imagine, whilst tonsil stones are natural, they can potentially irritate and it is common for those with stones to have a sore throat, but it is not always easy to tell whether the pain in your throat is caused by your infection or the tonsil stone.
- Discomfort when swallowing
- Depending on the size and location of the stone, you might feel like something is obstructing your throat and giving you difficulty in swallowing.
- As the stone forms, in some cases the reaction and changes going on can case the tonsil tissue to swell and become inflamed.
- Ear pain
- Despite the stone being in the throat and not the ear, the path that nerves take through the head of us humans can mean that pain felt in the ear is actually as a result of a tonsil stone touching or blocking certain nerves.
Are tonsil stones harmful?
No, they are not.
If you discover you have tonsil stones there is little need to worry.
Your life isn’t going to change dramatically and you don’t need to go completing all the items on your bucket list within the next few months.
In most cases, they are not harmful and do not cause any real problems.
As they are usually just a couple of millimetres, many people don’t even realise they have them.
Larger stones or those with more stones in the tonsils may experience more discomfort than is normal.
The good news is that they are easily removed or often swallowed without too much thought or realisation.
More harmful is you or a willing accomplice going in heavy handed to the back of your mouth to try and remove them. The soft tonsil tissue can become damaged and infected fairly easily.
For the select few who really suffer with tonsil stones, they may opt or be advised to have small surgical procedures to help remove them.
Is it common to have tonsil stones?
It is certainly more common than you might think.
Many people we asked had not ever heard of them, yet around 6-10% of the population of adults aged 20-40 years old have them according to Dr Katz, founder of TheraBreath.
As it stands, there is little to no evidence available to be able to determine whether you will or will not get tonsil stones at some point. So, even if other members of your family suffer, you may never experience them. It appears not to be genetic, nor it is a condition you can catch!
However, for those who have experienced tonsillitis on more than one occasion or those with larger than average tonsils are more likely to develop tonsil stones.
And the reality is, that for many, the stones are so small and so few obvious symptoms, they don’t even know they have them.
Because the stones form in parts of the tonsil visible to us, unless they give off one of the symptoms noted above, there is little reason you or I would notice.
It is not uncommon for the dentist to notice them at your regular dental checkup. The position in which you sit and they view your mouth, gives them the best chance of noticing them.
Studies have looked to find out how common they are, but the results from them are quite different.
The British Institute of Radiology in 2013 assessed the results of 150 CT scans, to find that 25% showed signs of having or forming tonsil stones.
An earlier study, conducted in 2007 found that in just 6% of the 515 participants scanned showed signs.
Perhaps these results show just how random the likelihood of you getting tonsil stones is? Maybe the advances in CT scanner technology had a part to play?!
Dr. Katz speculates that the stones are prevalent nowadays for a number of reasons. “As people get fewer and fewer tonsillectomies, the potential for tonsil stones grows,” he said. “Also, many prescription medications have dry mouth as a side effect, which causes anaerobic bacteria to go into overdrive.”
Video of tonsil stones being removed
If you would like to see a video of tonsil stones being removed, head over to Instagram, to see this video from Dr. Smile.
Bad breath & tonsil stones
Tonsil stones are a build up of natural or organic substances. The bacteria feeds and breeds as the tonsil stones form and as a consequence gives off a sulphurous odour.
It is this that causes the bad breath.
As one of the possible indicators to tonsil stones, there are some steps you can take to help stop or limit the bad breath and maybe stop the tonsil stones in the first place.
- Brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes at a time
- Floss once a day
- Brush your tongue and inside cheeks
- Drink water after a meal to wash away food and bacteria
The use of particular mouthwashes can help too.
Never use mouthwash straight after brushing, you should use it at other times in the day, in between brushing sessions.
The most basic mouthwash you could use is a warm salty mouthwash – place a spoonful of salt into a mug of warm (but not hot) water, and gargle this for a minute before spitting out.
Long lasting mouthwashes like TheraBreath, or the Fresh Breath Co as it is branded here in the UK, can help reduce the occurrence, taste, and response of bad breath.
Formulated by Dr Katz, as a leading specialist in this field, he is very knowledgeable and aware of the chemical process and the psychological consequences of bad breath.
His company produces a Deluxe Starter Kit, which although not specifically for tonsil stones gives you a lot of what you need to take preventative steps.
The kit contains:
- Oral Rinse
- Chewing gum
- Tongue cleaner
|The Breath Co Fresh Breath Deluxe Starter Kit||20 Reviews||£18.18||View on Amazon|
Some users have found that another of his products, the Extinguisher Spray can be beneficial in managing tonsil stones. This was unavailable on Amazon UK at the time of writing, but there were some available on ebay.
Tonsil stone removal & treatment?
Tonsil stones, for the most part, do not require any special surgery or medical treatment.
As the stones are considered harmless and occur naturally, the advice is where possible to treat them with a number of different ‘at home’ treatments.
Whilst you may experience a little discomfort with tonsil stones, if you are looking for lots of sympathy from friends and family or being signed off work for a few weeks whilst you recover, sadly this is not the case.
These do it yourself at home treatments are less invasive than any surgery and often take just a few minutes to perform.
Although you can go to a doctor to have the stones removed, their approach in the first instance is normally no different to how you would do it at home. The only difference is they are a trained medical professional.
In some cases, antibiotics can be used if there is an obvious spreading infection, but this is rarely an appropriate treatment otherwise.
Surgery is considered a last resort and will only really be offered or suggested for regular sufferers, where it is evident that the size, the discomfort, and frequency of stones is higher than the average.
Your dentist may well spot the stones, but commonly patients will go to a doctor or ear, nose and throat specialist for treatment.
If surgery is deemed necessary, the procedures medical professionals use are:
- Laser Tonsil Cryptolsis – A laser is used to eliminate the crypts where stones form by smoothing the surface of the tonsil.
- Coblation Tonsil Cryptolysis – Again this smooths out the surface of the tonsil, but with coblation charged ions are used to eliminate these crypts.
- Tonsillectomy – The most invasive procedure which removes the tonsils and is the only way to ‘cure’ tonsil stones.
What is the cure & how can you stop tonsil stones?
The only known ‘cure’ is to have your tonsils removed.
You can’t simply decide to remove your tonsils one day because you want to stop the tonsil stones, so that is not really an option.
A tonsillectomy is a painful procedure with a slow recovery, and so this will only be offered in the most extreme cases and where tonsillitis has been contracted regularly (multiple cases in 12 month period in the UK).
Various non-invasive treatments including antibiotics may reduce or stop the stones for a period of time, but they can come back.
Some will suffer it for a year, others for many years.
As our bodies change we can essentially develop and stop developing tonsil stones.
So, the good news if so those who do suffer, one day you may no longer. Sadly though there are no indicators to say if and when this will happen. You just have to let nature do its thing.
Removing tonsil stones at home
The bit you really want to know then, just how can you remove these at home yourself?
Well, there are a number of at home treatments you can try to rid your mouth of them.
The 2 most popular treatments are flushing out or popping out the stones.
Sadly neither of these are guaranteed methods that work for all, but the general success rate is high and both are certainly worth a go.
The first technique is centred around flushing out the stones. It relies on the pressure of water to release stones from the crypt in which they sit.
The second technique known as ‘popping’ requires the use of physical pressure on the area to release them.
As you cannot always see the stones, you will not know whether or not you have removed them all.
Whilst you may have a desire to remove all the stones, it is not essential as they will not normally cause much harm. The design of the tonsils and the areas in which the stones sit, means that you can’t possibly see them all, so you won’t really ever know if you have or have not removed them.
The simple act of releasing or dislodging just a few of the larger or more visible stones can bring the relief that you desire.
As we have established, neither approach is a long term cure to tonsil stones.
If you want to first try flushing the stones out, this is perhaps the more gentle of the 2 options.
You can use salt water or a water flosser.
It is cheaper and easier to initially begin with gargling a salt water solution.
Mix a teaspoon or so of salt into a glass of warm water, take a mouthful and gargle it in the mouth.
The warmth of the salty water loosens the mucus and the tissue of the tonsil surrounding the stones. The gargling creates and pressure effect on the area to that helps lift the stone out.
If successful the stones will become loose and can be spat out with the water.
Repeating this step several times is usually best.
The second approach to flushing out the stones is to use an oral irrigator (also known as a water flosser), or what many refer to as a ‘Waterpik’.
Waterpik is a brand of oral irrigator and is not a particular type of product for removing tonsil stones.
Therefore any oral irrigator could potentially do the same job as a Waterpik, but as the market leading brand within oral irrigators, they are generally amongst the best available.
Water flosser or oral irrigator, whichever name you prefer are able to deliver more pressure and force to the stone and surrounding area as electrically powered pumps force out a jet of water.
The nozzles or tips on the flossers do too allow for greater focus and accuracy in controlling the water flow. This extra control and pressure can be the most effective treatment for many tonsil stone sufferers.
If neither of these 2 approaches work, the next options is popping them out.
There are tools you can buy to potentially help with the removal, but few are designed specifically for stone removal.
One fairly well regarded tool is the Earlywish tonsil stone kit.
This is an incredibly simple, yet useful tool. A built-in LED shines light down the 6.2 inch clear plastic tip that allows you to see and guide out tonsil stones with ease but comes with a few extra accessories to help tackle the stone removal.
Your tonsils are a soft tissue that can be easily damaged and bleed, so either approach must be done so carefully.
Do not use sharp implements such as a toothpick to try and get them out.
A blunt, and soft tool like a cotton bud, or the end of a toothbrush are safe and popular choices.
The popping approach works best when you can see the stones. Place the tool gently into the mouth and place on the area around the stone.
Apply pressure gently, increasing until the stone is released. Do not apply more pressure than you feel comfortable with.
You will need to repeat the process for multiple stones.
If you do not feel confident trying either of these techniques you can go to your doctor or dentist, but they will likely take the approach of popping them out for you.
How can a Waterpik oral irrigators help with tonsil stones?
Waterpik is a name most commonly associated with water flossers/oral irrigators and is not a specialist product in its own right.
Thus, if someone has suggested using a Waterpik to remove stones then really they are saying make use of a water flosser.
However, as the company with the biggest array of flossers and lots of clinically backed trials they are the go to brand for many and are without a doubt the market leader.
Oral irrigators, like those designed by Waterpik are primarily designed for interdental cleaning, removing plaque and debris found in between teeth and along the gumline.
However, the way in which they work, their availability and effectiveness make them great for tonsil stone removal.
Each product has its own pros and cons. You might like to read our article titled ‘Best Water Flosser’ to find out more about flossers, but my top picks are listed below.
How each of these work is that they use an electrical power source to drive water that is stored within a reservoir on the unit, at pressure out through a nozzle or tip.
The pressure at which the water is pushed out can be powerful enough to dislodge and lift out the tonsil stones you are suffering with.
Many water flossers offer adjustable rotation on the tips as well as variable pressure settings which can be extremely useful to not only make flushing out a tonsil stone more comfortable, but more effective too.
If the water flosser you use has adjustable pressure, it is advisable to begin on the lower setting and gradually increase if required to avoid doing damage and keep things comfortable during the process.
Water flossers are available as countertop of cordless options.
My general recommendation would be to opt for the countertop units as these have larger reservoirs and allow for a longer running time than cordless options.
How to use a Waterpik (oral irrigator) to remove tonsil stones
It should be clear by now that aside from tonsil removal there is no 100% effective way to get rid of tonsil stones permanently.
Using a water flosser, such as those made by Waterpik, can however be one of the best and most effective choices to flush them out.
Assuming you have a water flosser, follow the steps below for best results.
- Try and set up a light and mirror so that you can see your tonsils and the stones you wish to remove as clearly as possible.
- Fill the irrigator water tank with lukewarm water. You could add 1-2 teaspoons of salt if you like, but generally, it is not recommended as it could affect the water flosser. Avoid using cold water as it is harsher on the softer tonsil tissue.
- Put the nozzle of the flosser into the mouth and aim it towards your tonsils. Power the flosser on, making sure the pressure is set to low before doing so.
- Begin cleaning your tonsils by moving the jet of water up down and around the affected area.
- Continue to do this for 10-30 seconds as the warm water will help loosen the bacteria in the crypts and the first stones should be lifted out.
- Gradually increase the power/pressure of the flosser to help loosen those stones that have not already come out.
- You may need to refill the tank and repeat the process a couple of times to clear them all.
- Once the tonsil stones have been removed, gargle using a mouthwash to help cleanse and remove the remaining dirt and bacteria.
Remember the success level is different for everyone.
If you repeatedly suffer, you may find that sometimes flushing out is more effective than on other occasions, but for most, it is one of the most comfortable and effective ways to release them.
The best Waterpik for removing tonsil stones?
If I could pick, one and only one oral irrigator, then my choice would be:
A fantastic water flosser, it offers really good value for money given how well it is shown to perform.
You might want it for helping remove those stones, but it would be silly not to take advantage of the benefits it brings at cleaning those interdental spaces.
It has a fairly large water tank allows for a 90 second usage time with 10 different pressure settings along with a 360 degree rotating tip to the handle, offering you pinpoint accuracy and control.
What I like
- Excellent cleaning offered
- Good box contents
- Various pressure settings
- Largeish water tank given units size
- Water control button on handle
What I dislike
- The massage mode seems a little unnecessary
- Not the largest tank given it is one of the more premium models
The WP-660 from Waterpik might be my ultimate choice, but I want to offer up an alternative choice, and that is the Waterpik WP-450 cordless water flosser and the second is the Sterline countertop water flosser.
Waterpik WP-450 cordless water flosser
Cordless and powered by a built-in rechargeable battery meaning you have more freedom when using the WP-450. You are not tied by the physical hose.
Recharged via a 3 pin UK mains adapter, it is a more convenient option for most, particularly those who do not have a 2 pin power socket in their bathroom, which tend to be the default power cord.
Given the portable nature of the unit, the water tank is an ok size, but not really big enough to effectively tackling the tonsil stones without a few refills.
There are 2 pressure settings and the rubber grip on the rear helps keep a firm grip when in hand.
What I like
- Trusted brand
- Interchangeable tips
- 2 pressure modes
- Rechargeable battery
What I dislike
- The tank is a bit small
- Feels a little cheap
|Waterpik Cordless Plus Water Flosser||1,370 Reviews||£54.99 £46.00||View on Amazon|
They may sound and look serious, but for the vast majority, tonsil stones pose little or no real threat.
An inconvenience they may well be, but the limited symptoms and occasional discomfort don’t really affect your daily life.
Treatments are simple to carry out and can be done at home.
Flushing or popping out the stones are proven to be 2 effective methods, the flushing often the more comfortable of the 2.
Oral irrigators such as those from Waterpik are extremely effective tools that aid in the flushing out approach.
If you have any concerns at all you can visit your doctor or dentist for advice or referral if required.
What’s the difference between tonsil stones and tonsillitis?
They are the same thing.
Tonsillitis is the more technical/medical name for tonsil stones.
Your dentist or doctor would likely refer to the stones as tonsillitis.
How to prevent tonsil stones?
There is no proven way to prevent tonsil stones, other than having your tonsils removed.
Around 6-10% of adults get tonsil stones, but it isn’t possible to say who will and won’t.
Keeping your teeth and mouth clean will reduce the chances of tonsil stones forming.
Brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes.
Clean the tongue and cheeks of the mouth also.
Keep hydrated with water.