Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is a problem in the lives of countless people. If you have taken every measure to battle your halitosis with no luck, you may find yourself wondering, ‘Do tonsil stones cause bad breath?’ Tonsil stones, also called tonsilloliths, are a combination of food particles, sulfur-containing bacteria, and other debris. As these build up in the grooves of your tonsils they begin to form hard calcified masses that produce a strong odor.

woman with bad breath

Do Tonsil Stones Cause Bad Breath?

Coffee, onions, garlic, rotting teeth, plaque buildup and poor dental hygiene are commonly known to cause bad breath. For many people, curing bad breath is as simple as popping a mint, brushing their teeth, chewing gum, or using mouthwash. If your bad breath persists, then there is a good chance that tonsil stones are to blame.

Due to their sulfur-containing bacteria, tonsil stones are a likely cause of bad breath. While only 16-24% of the general public reports living with tonsil stones, one clinical study found that in actuality they plagued closer to 40% of patients. Most of those suffering from halitosis think that they’re doing everything right by brushing, flossing and using an alcohol-based mouthwash. However, using an alcohol-based mouthwash does more harm than good since tonsilloliths are living biofilms.

While tonsil stones have been found to be a cause of bad breath, this is not a common issue for most people. Some signs that tonsil stones are to blame are persistent bad breath, earaches, discomfort in the throat, tonsillitis and sore throats. Yet, you will only experience these symptoms if you have a particularly large tonsil stone. You already know that practicing good oral hygiene alone will not treat bad breath caused by tonsil stones. Do tonsil stones cause bad breath? Yes. Is there any hope for eliminating the odor they cause? You bet there is.

What Causes Tonsil Stones?

Tonsil stones are made up of food particles, sulfur-containing bacteria, and debris. Over time these three things begin to build up and form hard, white, calcified masses that collect in the tonsils. The exact cause of this is unknown, but it is speculated that certain eating habits can contribute to tonsil stones.

Dr. Mercola notes that individuals with large tonsils are more likely to develop tonsil stones. Large tonsils are one of the first things dentists look for when patients ask, “Do tonsil stones cause bad breath?” Dr. Mercola also notes that tonsil stones can show up after an illness like strep throat. Other contributing factors could be dry mouth, poor dental hygiene and a diet rich in sugar and processed foods.

Other Things to Know about Tonsil Stones

Jim Hyland, a dentist specializing in the treatment of halitosis and periodontal disease, conducted a case study on a seven-year-old girl who was being teased because of her bad breath. Her mother went to Dr. Hyland asking, “Do tonsil stones cause bad breath?” After performing a variety of tests to find out what the source of her bad breath was, Dr. Hyland concluded that tonsil stones were to blame.

To remedy her severe bad breath he first prescribed Oravital, which is a metronidazole/nystatin compounded suspension, and instructed her to use this to rinse her mouth out three times a week for two weeks. Oral rinses like Oravital work well in combating bad breath because they are capable of penetrating and sticking to oral biofilms like tonsilloliths. In addition, the patient used a sodium chlorite maintenance rinse twice a day and an oral probiotic to aid in repopulating commensal bacteria. At her follow up appointment four weeks later, Dr. Hyland found that the bad breath had been eliminated despite tests indicating odor causing hydrogen-sulfide production. Just to be safe, he recommended that the child use an over-the-counter rinse called SmartMouth twice daily, five days a week. This was paired with a chlorhexidine rinse.

A year and eight months later the patient returned to Dr. Hyland’s office with the same odor due to tonsil stones. This time around she was given a prescription for tetracycline/nystatin that she was to use for two weeks. The end testing results verified that her Oral Chroma readings were lower than ever before. Dr. Hyland also recommended that she follow through with using a sodium chlorite rinse for five days and continue using a chlorhexidine rinse twice weekly. This final prescription and recommendation ensured the end of her bad breath maladies.

What to Do about Bad Breath and Tonsil Stones

Now that you know that the answer to the question, “Do tonsil stones cause bad breath”, is ‘yes’, you are better prepared to finally put an end to your bad breath. The first thing to take note of is that tonsil stones can typically be removed by gargling with salt water, using a water-flossing device or using a cotton swab. Tonsillectomy is only recommended as a last resort.

1. Fermented vegetables

The friendly flora found in fermented vegetables can alter the flora in your mouth.

2. Mouthwash free of alcohol

Alcohol-based mouthwashes only make the problem worse. When using a mouthwash, either get a prescription from a dentist or choose one that contains no alcohol.

3. Coconut oil

Coconut oil is natural, free from alcohol and found to naturally freshen breath and reduce microorganisms. Simply use coconut oil as a mouthwash, “pulling” it through your teeth.

4. Green tea

Green tea is able to combat bad breath thanks to its disinfectant and deodorant activities.

5. Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a safe alternative to use to banish bad breath. With regular use, you may be able to dislodge tonsil stones and prevent more tonsil stones from building up.

6. Change your diet

Foods that help eliminate bad breath by controlling the growth of bad bacteria are cucumbers, water chestnuts, apples, celery, and carrots. You should cut back or eliminate sugars, dairy products, and processed foods. Milk and ice cream, in particular, cause a thick coating of mucus to build up in your tonsils.


The question, “Do tonsil stones cause bad breath?” has finally been answered. While tonsil stones are not a leading cause of bad breath, it is a large enough issue that it needs to be addressed. If you find yourself coughing up little white stones or suffering from bad breath no matter how hard you try to eliminate it, it may be time to try one of the home remedies listed above. If all else fails, don’t hesitate to present your concerns to your dentist. They will be sure to hand you a prescription that can cure this embarrassing symptom of tonsil stones once and for all.