What your dentist or hygienist can tell you about tonsils

by: Sandy Johnson, RDH, BA

What exactly ARE your tonsils? Your tonsils are inside your throat, but they’re not teeth - they’re soft masses of tissue located on both sides of your throat. They help fight infections, and can vary in size greatly depending on the person. If you look in the mirror and open your mouth wide, you should be able to see yours. Parents can look at their kids’ tonsils by using a flashlight.

So, what happens when you get tonsillitis? Tonsillitis is what happens when your tonsils become infected. This can be caused by a virus or bacteria, causing a sore throat and swelling. Other conditions like mononucleosis and strep throat can cause your tonsils to swell, as well.

If your tonsillitis is caused by a virus, treat it like you would a sore throat or a cold – drink hot tea, gargle with warm salt water, get plenty of rest and take over the counter pain medications like ibuprofen. Most bacterial infections can be cured by antibiotics. If you find yourself getting regular bouts of tonsillitis or have very large tonsils that bother you, a medical professional may recommend you have them removed. In rare cases, you may have an abscess that needs draining.

Most of the time, tonsillitis is not serious. Work with your dental hygienist, dentist or doctor and we’ll help get your pain and soreness cured quickly.

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