Tonsils or No Tonsils! That is the question!
November 6, 2017 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Do I have my tonsils out or keep them where they are? Do you night grind and did your night grinding improve after you had your tonsils out?

Disclaimers: You are not my doctor. You are not my dentist. I am not seeking medical or dental advice, but rather personal experiences. I have a great dentist and I have seen an ENT. I am exploring options.

I'm a mid-30s woman with a lot of yucky stuff going on with my mouth. A few weeks ago I was having massive tooth pain on one side of my mouth. I went to see my most excellent dentist, and he said (after x-rays and examination of course) that my teeth look good, but that I am grinding my teeth in my sleep and the cause of the pain is actually my muscles and soft tissues. He recommended a night guard. So I wore a night guard. It was helpful.

I have also been suffering from tonsil stones, so I saw an ENT. One tonsil is large, the other is not as large. I have deep pits and a really giant stone on one side. I saw the ENT because the stones won't stop and I have a foul taste on one side of my mouth. The ENT guy said it's up to me if I want them out. They don't have to come out, but they could come out. He also noted my salivary glands are "firmer than we'd like," which is caused by the tonsil stones. And also that is probably why I constantly feel like my neck is swollen and why my mouth always feels so dry. ENT was not so pleased with the night guard suggestion from the dentist.

Next day I had my regular dental cleaning appointment. The pain I was having in my jaw shifted to the other side of my jaw and was pretty bad. My gums were pretty badly inflamed and super sensitive compared to usual. The night guard appears to have inflamed my gums and caused the pain to shift.

Come to now, I stopped wearing the night guard. The pain in my jaw has subsided some, but old tension in different areas of my job is back up. Some general reading suggests tonsils and night grinding could be related, but maybe not related. ENT says the recovery from tonsillectomy is a week from absolute hell for adults. He was very straightforward and honest about this, which I appreciate. My dentist is concerned about my sleep quality if I'm grinding at night. I'm on the fence about my tonsils because they're not that bad, but there's a chance they get worse and then there's no choice and the older I get the harder the recovery may be. They're unlikely to get better though the status quo could possibly be maintained.

So if you had your tonsils out as an adult, what was your recovery like? Did you have any regrets after? Did your sleep quality improve? Did you stop grinding? Did your jaw muscle tension ease? Did your overall quality of life improve?
posted by zizzle to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I got my tonsils out when I was 25. I was not having dental and jaw issues (that sounds worse, I'm sorry you're dealing with that!) but I was getting frequent sore throats and tonsil stones.

Recovery was about a week. I was off work, I stayed at a friend's house and ate a lot of soft foods and slept. It was important to be proactive about pain meds vs waiting for pain to kick in. My overall quality of life improved--I have been sick less often since then.
posted by emkelley at 9:10 AM on November 6, 2017

Well, this goes back to the 1960s-1970s, but I had a pediatrician who was one of the few at the time who did NOT believe in having your tonsils removed at the first opportunity. And I went through several years of having colds/flu turn into throat infections once or twice a year. The first time I went to see a 'grown-up doctor' at the age of 16½, he took one look down my throat and saw severe swelling even though I was experiencing zero pain. Right after I got out of school that summer I went in for a tonsillectomy, and they decided to cut out my adenoids while they were in there. (The surgeon commented that the tonsils looked like "ping pong balls" afterward) I had many fewer sore throats afterward, and suffered only one post-surgical issue - I'd been playing clarinet/saxophone in my high school band, and my tonsilless/adenoidless embouchure was shot... I couldn't keep air from leaking out my nose when playing. So, unless you're a woodwind musician, or get frequent sore throats, there's nothing I can tell you, but thanks for listening.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:13 AM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I had my tonsils out at 20 (after pretty much the same 70s pediatric trend thing as oneswellfoop). It didn't change my tooth grinding one bit, but it significantly reduced my tendency towards colds and sore throats. For that reason alone I would have them out again.

I had my deviated septum worked on at the same time, so my recovery probably isn't exactly what you want to know about, but: I had about three days of being more or less doped up on codeine. Take a pill, sleep five hours, wake up, try to eat something, repeat. I got so tired of the codeine fog I stopped taking it and dealt with the pain after that. Good news: the pain wasn't so bad by that point and acetaminophen alone made it mostly tolerable. My nose hurt worse than my throat. Bad news: I was still pretty much laid up at home for two or three more days.
posted by fedward at 9:25 AM on November 6, 2017

I had my tonsils out at age 18, after having strep pretty much constantly since I was 10. No strep, not once, since. I was in pain for about a week, but really was more nauseated from the anesthesia than bothered by my throat. Mint tea was my friend.
posted by Malla at 9:39 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had mine out at 26. I was nervous having read horror stories online but it was really not that bad. I tended to feel like shit in the morning before my pain meds kicked in, but after that really felt OK and had a mildly good time catching up on books and Netflix. I ate a lot of soup, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs etc. and didn't lose any weight. I was back at work in a little over a week and back to normal in two, I think.
posted by noxperpetua at 10:28 AM on November 6, 2017

I was about to have mine out at 25 for years of multiple bouts of strep every winter plus tonsil stones all the damn time. I got sidetracked because I was diagnosed with IBD, which took precedence, and by the time that was under control I realized I had gone years with zero episodes of strep and very few tonsil stones (I'd say I see them less than every other month now, and absolutely have no issues with bad breath or bad taste).

All of this is to say that I would get your overall health in order first -- if you have other nagging issues, poor diet, poor hygiene (ask yourself honestly how often you're washing your hands before eating or touching your face; if it's not 100% of the time, you have room to improve), they might be lower hanging fruit for fixing your issues.
posted by telegraph at 11:27 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I can't imagine a scenario where tonsils have any influence on grinding. If you grind now, you will still grind after having your tonsils removed.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:51 AM on November 6, 2017

I still have my tonsils, but I'm a dedicated jaw clencher and tooth grinder in my sleep and have done a lot of research about it. Nothing I've seen has implicated tonsils as a factor. Gum irritation and receding is a common effect of the actual grinding and clenching, not an effect of a properly fitted mouth guard. Wearing your mouth guard every night will help to slow the gum damage and the tooth damage (cracking as well as wear). I've also switched to using a water pik instead of using string floss to improve my gum health and my dentist has noticed an improvement with the water pik. It's extremely unlikely that the pain you're experiencing is from the guard and not the clenching and grinding. Guards can break down over time and some people even grind through or break them from use. They need to be both properly fitted and regularly examined in case they need to be replaced.

People with severe tonsil stones often use a combo of water pik and long cotton swabs to push the stones out regularly. This can help tremendously with both infections and other unpleasant effects of tonsil stones. It can also help to promote the tonsils becoming less inflamed. Regular gargling can also be a help with this. Given how unpleasant the surgery recovery can be as well as the fact that some people grow their tonsils back (rare) would lead me to try being very aggressive with non-surgical options first.
posted by quince at 12:00 PM on November 6, 2017

Getting my tonsils out was the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me, health wise. No more tonsil stones, no more strep throat or prolonged colds due to bacteria and viruses getting trapped in my stupid tonsil crevices, etc.
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:28 PM on November 6, 2017

RE: night grinding, yes, it improved because I was no longer grinding my teeth to deal with the pain I was feeling from tonsil-induced sinus issues.
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:59 PM on November 6, 2017

I don't know about the grinding thing, but I can say that while a tonsilectomy isn't much fun, it isn't as horrible as all that. I had my tonsils out at about 26 or 27, thanks to tonsil stones and general tonsil yuck. The surgery itself was easy enough, but the recovery knocked me on my butt for a solid week. The worst part, frankly, is that I had some kind of unpleasant reaction to the anesthesia (or something, I don't really know), and spent the first day after the surgery vomiting. That was not fun, but once that was past, life got better. The pain was real, but better than the time I got pleurisy, weirdly. I was given a prescription for some kind of painkiller that was delivered in a cold slurry. I ate nothing but ice cream and cold apple sauce and jello and vichyssoise and similar things, and after a week I was well enough to get back to my life. Afterwards, my health was much improved. Like Hermione Granger, I get far fewer colds and other infections, and just being free of the general grossness of the tonsil stones (which I had been removing with cotton swabs, as per quince's suggestions above, but even so, they are FOUL). I didn't know that it would be such a major quality-of-life improvement, one that has lasted several decades, but that's what it turned out to be. I'm very glad I did it, despite the unpleasantness I experienced at the time. YMMV, of course.
posted by pleasant_confusion at 7:52 PM on November 6, 2017

In case you are open to other treatments for grinding: I stopped clenching my jaw at night when I started using a buckwheat hull pillow. I think the firmness helps my jaw relax. When I used a mouthguard, I would just end up chewing on it. My clenching was not tonsil-related.
posted by Comet Bug at 8:27 PM on November 6, 2017

Getting mine out, in my twenties, was life-changing (for the better). Tonsiliths are a sign that there is evil in the world and it wants to take over, one gust of bad breath at a time. Get them out!

Recovery was miserable -- it took me two weeks -- but it was absolutely worth it and I would do it again. Tonsiliths are no longer a problem, and I don't have sinusitis any more.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:45 AM on November 7, 2017

I just got my tonsils out, and I wish I'd known beforehand that with the opiate crackdown, recovery is becoming much harder. Having my wisdom teeth out about ten years ago, with prescribed opiates, was a breeze; it was a week where I slept most of the time and watched TV for the rest. I never felt high or anything, but the pain was never bad. Having my tonsils out was almost two weeks of reflexively crying in pain from the second I woke up, not being able to eat more than a few literal bites per day, and genuinely wishing I was dead. All I got in advance was the "two weeks of ice cream and relaxing!" speech, which was definitely not good preparation.

I don't think it made a difference in terms of grinding, but that wasn't the goal for me. It did get rid of my tonsil stones, of course, and hopefully I'll be sick less often.
posted by booksandlibretti at 11:15 AM on November 8, 2017

Update: Had my tonsils out. It was a good decision.
posted by zizzle at 10:06 AM on March 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

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