Your tonsils are filled with nooks and crannies where bacteria and other materials, including dead cells and mucous, can become trapped. Tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths, are formed when this trapped debris hardens, or calcifies. This tends to happen most often in people who have chronic inflammation in their tonsils or repeated bouts of tonsillitis.
Some people have no symptoms when they have tonsil stones. Others will have:
- bad breath
- redness or irritation of the tonsils
- feeling of something stuck in the throat
- chronic, mild sore throat or reoccurring tonsillitis
Tonsil stones can sometimes be seen in the mirror and will appear as white, yellow or grey spots on the tonsils. Some stones can’t be seen because they are hidden within the folds and crevices of the tonsil and are only found during dental x-rays or CT scans.
The appropriate treatment for tonsil stones depends on the size of the stone and its potential to cause discomfort or harm. Many tonsil stones, especially ones that have no symptoms, require no special treatment. The most common at home treatments for tonsil stones are:
- Simply scraping them off with a cotton swab
- Gargling with warm, salty water to dislodge them
- Oral irrigators like the Hydro Floss® can be used to flush the tonsil stones from the crevices of the tonsil
Please note that it is always best to consult your dentist before making any oral care changes such as using an oral irrigator to remove tonsil stones.
When tonsil stones are exceedingly large and symptomatic, it may be necessary for a surgeon to remove them. In some instances, a doctor will be able to perform this relatively simple procedure using a local numbing agent. Then the patient will not need general anesthesia.
- Brush your teeth and tongue twice a day
- Gargle with mouthwash or warm, salty water
- Drink water after a meal to wash down food particles that may remain in the throat
- Irrigate the tonsils weekly with an oral irrigator to prevent debris and bacteria from accumulating in tonsil crevices
- Clean nasal passages to decrease postnasal drip, an underlying cause of tonsil stones