The short answer is YES, you can use a Waterpik water flosser to help treat tonsil stones.
My recommendation is to try the Waterpik WP-660 Aqaurius, which we have reviewed here.
|Waterpik WP-660 Aquarius||16,061 Reviews||$89.99 from $86.99||View on Amazon|
However, there is more to consider here, so read on to better understand how you can make use of oral irrigators like Waterpik to help with this condition.
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.
The stones form in crevices or ‘tonsillar crypts’ found on the surface of the tonsils.
Crypts are perfectly normally 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 common not to actually show any symptoms, your dentist or doctor may even point them out when having a look inside your mouth.
However, typical symptoms of tonsil stones are:
- A feeling of something being stuck at the back of your throat
- 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
- With a clear link between tonsillitis and tonsil stones, the 2 often occur at the same time. This therefore makes it difficult to determine 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.
- The tonsils can become swollen through infection in some cases as the stone forms.
- Ear pain
- Despite the stone being in the throat and not the ear, the link in nervous pathways can mean that pain is felt in the ear if a stone is touching or blocking certain nerves.
- White lumps
- If you are taking a good look at the back of your mouth and see some white spots or lumps that look unusual, this could be a tonsil stone. Not always visible, they can be small and hidden in crypts out of your line of sight.
Are tonsil stones harmful?
Tonsil stones are not generally harmful and rarely cause any real problems.
For the vast majority, they are small, just a couple of millimeters. This means they are often swallowed without really realising or easily removed.
It is possible that being too aggressive with the removal of the stones can cause tearing or damage to the tonsils which in turn leads to infection.
Some people will experience larger numbers of stones and more discomfort and may opt for surgical procedures.
A 2018 report from King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences in Saudi Arabia detailed one of the largest recorded stones measuring 3.1 x 2.1 cm.
Is it common to have tonsil stones?
Yes, it is more common than you might think.
According to Dr Katz, founder of TheraBreath, around 6-10% of the population of adults aged 20-40 years old have them.
There is no evidence to suggest you will or will not suffer from tonsil stones, but those with larger tonsils or if you have suffered repeated bouts of tonsillitis are more likely to suffer from them.
Many people do not even know they have them.
The stones can be so small or hidden in parts of the tonsils you can’t see, unless they cause discomfort or bad breath would you even know you had them.
A number of studies have looked into how common they are, with some quite significant difference in the statistics.
A 2013 study by the British Institute of Radiology assessed the results of CT scans performed on 150 people to find that 25% showed signs of them.
However a 2007 study by Salem, found that of 515 participants in the study, 31 or 6% showed signs of tonsil stones.
If you have suffered repeatedly with tonsilitis you are more prone to tonsiloliths.
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
A tonsil stone is a build up of organic matter.
As they grow, bacteria feeds and breeds as the tonsil stones form, the consequence of which is a sulfurous odor.
It is this that causes the bad breath.
Bad breath is often one of the first indicators of tonsil stones.
To limit the chances of bad breath, you should:
- 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 can reduce the impact of the bad breath.
Dr Katz is a leading specialist in this field and is all too aware of how the sulphur given off by those suffering with tonsil stones can cause bad breath.
He and his company have developed 2 core products to help you tackle the problem.
Tonsil Stones Treatment Kit
Containing the basic products Dr Katz believes you need, the aim here is to dissolve the tonsil stones.
AktivOxigen serum attacks the bacteria that lead to tonsil stones whilst Nasal/sinus drops cleanse your sinuses.
A throat spray reaches the difficult to access areas of your throat and a mouth wetting lozenges attack bacteria, stimulate cleansing salivation and freshen your breath on the go.
|TheraBreath Tonsil Stones Treatment Kit||95 Reviews||$42.95 $39.89||View on Amazon|
Tonsil Stones Deluxe Kit
Taking the tonsil stone game to the next level, this kit includes
- 2 x TheraBreath Oral Rinse
- 1 x TheraBreath Toothpaste
- 3 x TheraBreath Fresh Breath Throat Spray
- 2 x AktivOxigen Serum
- 3 x TheraBreath Nasal-Sinus Drops
- 1 x TheraBreath Dry Mouth Lozenges (24pc)
How are they treated?
You might think that surgical or medical treatment is required to help deal with tonsil stones, but more often than not, this is not necessary.
As the stones are considered harmless and occur naturally, advice is where possible, to treat them with a number of different ‘at home’ treatments.
These do it yourself treatments are less invasive and often take just a few minutes to perform. I will explain some of these procedures shortly.
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.
Antibiotics can be used if there is obvious spreading infection, but this is rarely an appropriate treatment otherwise.
If the tonsil stones are particularly frequent, large or causing a lot of discomfort, surgery is possible, but is usually the last resort.
It is best to speak to your doctor or an ear, nose and throat specialist for their assessment and advice.
Should surgery be the best option for you, the normal procedures 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 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?
Aside from tonsil removal, there is no way to guarantee the removal of or cure tonsil stones.
Various treatments including antibiotics may reduce or stop them for periods 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.
Removing tonsil stones at home
For those who know they have tonsil stones, there are a number of at home treatments you can try to rid your mouth of of them.
The 2 most popular treatments are flushing out or popping out the stones.
The flushing technique uses the pressure of water to release stones from the crypt in which they sit, whilst the popping technique 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.
It is not essential to remove them all as they will not normally cause much harm, but releasing some or those that are visible may bring the relief that you desire.
Neither approach is a long term cure to tonsil stones. The only cure is tonsil removal.
When it comes to flushing out the stones, there are 2 main approaches.
The first is to gargle on salt water.
Mixing 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 surrounding tissue, whilst the gargling motion creates and pressure effect on the area. The stones will often become loose and can be spat out with the water.
You may wish to repeat this several times.
The second approach to flushing out the stones is to use an oral irrigator, 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, they are generally amongst the best available.
The use of an oral irrigator gives the option of more force and directed power thanks to the electrically powered pump that pushes the water into the mouth. The extra force of water flow can be more effective for some than gargling to remove the stones.
If flushing the stones out does not work you can try 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 Airgoesin 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.
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 Q-tip/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 irrigator help with tonsil stones?
As I mentioned above, Waterpik is one brand within the oral irrigator/water flosser market.
The market leader, Waterpik are synonymous with oral irrigators, so the name is often used interchangeably.
Irrigators are 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 their own pros and cons. For more information and a buying guide you might like to see our list of the best electric 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.
This allows for you to gradually increase the water pressure and adjust the angle of the water stream to more effectively remove the stone.
Adjusting the pressure from low to high gradually also avoids doing unnecessary damage.
The use of a water flosser can too help reduce the potential gagging feeling that comes with placing an object to the back of the throat to pop out a stone.
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 to remove tonsil stones
There is no tried, tested and completely successful route to remove tonsil stones with a water flosser. Their size, shape, position and accessibility can all have a bearing.
However, the following steps should help you achieve some of the best results.
Assuming you have purchased an oral irrigator:
- 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.
I wish to make clear whilst an effective way to clear tonsil stones, it is not guaranteed to work. Different people have different levels of success, but for most it is one of the most comfortable and effective ways to release them.
The power of the jet of water emitted from the nozzle and be powerful and cause damage and bleeding to the tonsils, always begin on the lowest pressure and gradually increase the pressure.
An oral irrigator is a device to help remove existing tonsil stones.
Using an irrigator is not a cure to tonsil stones.
Aside from tonsil removal, there is no way to completely get rid of them forever.
The best Waterpik for removing tonsil stones?
In my opinion the best Waterpik for removing tonsil stones is the Waterpik WP-660 Aquarius, which we have reviewed here.
You can view a couple of options for buying it online in our price comparison below.
Waterpik WP-660 Aquarius
In my eyes, it is the standard to beat.
Whilst you might be buying it as a tool to aid with tonsil stones, you might as well take advantage and invest in a irrigator that will help with removing plaque too.
It offers all the desirable features you could want.
A fairly large water tank allows for a 90 second usage time.
10 pressure settings, controlled via a rotating dial allows for precise control further aided by the 360 degree rotating tips.
Backed by many clinical studies and approved by the American Dental Association,the Aquarius is a great balance between features, size and price.
It does to come in a range of colours, so you need not be stuck with the standard White colour option.
Your choices are:
- White – WP-660
- Black – WP-662
- Blue – WP-663
What I like
- Excellent cleaning offered
- Good box contents
- Various pressure settings
- Large 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 a couple of other choices.
The first is the H2ofloss water flosser and the second the Waterpik WP-560 cordless water flosser.
We’ve included links to their Amazon listings below – the H2ofloss was only available on Amazon at the time of writing, but the Waterpik WP-560 you should be able to find in stock with various online retailers.
|H2ofloss Dental Water Flosser for Teeth Cleaning With 12 Multifunctional Tips & 800ml Capacity,...||4,006 Reviews||$49.99 $33.99||View on Amazon|
|Waterpik Cordless Water Flosser Rechargeable Portable Oral irrigator for Travel & Home - Cordless...||2,428 Reviews||$99.99 from $76.04||View on Amazon|
H2ofloss countertop water flosser
A budget countertop water flosser.
You can’t really argue with what you get in the box for the money.
The water tank has an impressive 800ml capacity which allows you to work at those tonsil stones for a good couple of minutes.
12 tips are included in the box and there is a storage unit for these provided.
The nozzles can be rotated a full 360 degrees like premium brand Waterpik.
Although you do not get quite the same degree of control, there are 5 pressure settings to choose from, ranging from 5-110 PSI. You control them via the slider button on the handle
If you want to try a countertop option and can’t commit to spending a lot, this is an attractive option.
What I like
- 12 tips included
- Tip storage unit
- Large 800ml water reservoir
- Long running time
- Variable pressure settings
What I dislike
- Quality and reliability concerns
Waterpik WP-560 cordless water flosser
No need to be bound by wires with the WP-560, this is a cordless flosser that has been approved by the ADA.
The 360 degree rotating nozzle allows for excellent access to all areas of the mouth.
3 different flossing tips are included and 3 pressure settings allow up to 45 seconds of usage time from a full tank. It does not offer the number of pressure settings that the countertop options do, but it is one of, if not the best in the cordless options.
A new magnetic rapid charge systems ensures you can easily recharge the unit when required too.
For those that travel a pouch is included too.
Not stuck with just 1 colour choice you have the option of 5.
- Pearly White – WP-560
- Brilliant Black – WP-562
- Classic Blue – WP-563
- Radiant Orchid – WP-565
- Rose Gold – WP-569
What I like
- Trusted brand
- Interchangeable tips
- 3 pressure modes
- Good sized sized tank
- Easy charging
What I dislike
Tonsil stones are harmless, but left untreated can be uncomfortable and more often than not the cause of bad breath.
Bad breath can really affect your confidence and morale, so finding a treatment that will improve this is very important.
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.