Introduction to Tonsil Stones

Summary to Tonsil Stones
Summary to Tonsil Stones

What are Tonsil Stones?

tonsil-stones image
What are tonsil stones?
 Tonsil Stones are small white/yellow balls that accumulate in small pockets called tonsil crypts. Tonsil Stones are formed by a buildup of mucus, food particles, germs and debris that get stuck in your tonsils. 

The medical name for Tonsil Stones is Tonsilloliths.

More on What are Tonsil Stones Guide?

How do Tonsil Stones Develop?

Normally, these bits and pieces are constantly washed away through the normal acts of drinking, chewing and swallowing food, and the gallons of saliva that move through your mouth on a daily basis. But, if there are irregularities in your tonsils, sometimes these little bits and pieces get stuck, and then over time more and more accumulate forming the hard little balls that can wreak havoc on your body and social life.

A tonsil stone, or tonsillolith, is very similar to a kidney stone, except they form in the nooks and crannies of your tonsils located in the back of your throat.

What do Tonsil Stones look like?

real tonsil stones images
Real tonsil stones images – Yellow and White

How common are Tonsil Stones?

The Mayo Clinic estimates that there may be more than 3 million individuals suffering from an embarrassing and painful condition in the US alone.

 Having tonsil stones is actually quite common. 

How problematic are Tonsil Stones?

Like any other stone in your body, they can form, be expelled, and re-form again if you do not take the precautions to eliminate them and the environment in your body that encourages their growth.

As with other “stones” that develop in your body these growths can be painful and produce a range of unpleasant side-effects, including bad breath or halitosis, an extremely sore throat, ear pain and more.

However, tonsilloliths, as tonsil stones are also called, are harmless and do not require treatment.

If you any experience pain and discomfort, it is best to consult a doctor.

Why do Tonsil Stones Occur?

Why Tonsil Stones Occur?
Why Tonsil Stones Occur?

There is no single cause that can be nailed down to the development of Tonsil Stones. It can be a variety of factors.

One major cause of Tonsil Stones occurs with an accumulation of calcium salts formation in the crevices and pockets of the Tonsils.

Tonsil stones develop in your tonsils due to the accumulation of:

  • Dead skin cells
  • Bacteria
  • Food particles
  • Mucus

All of this can lead to debris which becomes more concentrated and develops a white formation. These items lodged in the crevices of the tonsils and then the salts from the saliva cause the deposits to calcify.

These calcified materials are developed as Tonsil Stones at the back of your mouth.

These Tonsil stones, normally have a white or yellow colour and are small in size, but can grow very big in a span of time. Many people have small tonsil stones inside their tonsils, but large Tonsil Stones occur very rarely.

The accumulation of calcium salts in the crevices is known as calcification.

Another major factor that can be agreed upon is the poor health of a person. When your body is unable to keep up with its regular cleansing mechanisms, it’s because your body is unable to function properly because of its poor condition.

More on What causes Tonsil Stones?

What are tonsil stones symptoms?

signs and symptoms of tonsil stones
Signs and symptoms of tonsil stones

How do you know if you have Tonsil Stones?

 Tonsil stones like a foreign object are lodged at the back of the throat. 

While it is true that tonsil stones do not typically present with any noticeable symptoms, sometimes they do.

There are a number of different tonsil stones symptoms that you should look out for,

Observe the following Common Tonsil Stone symptoms:

  1. Dragon Breath (Halitosis)
    One of the most common signs of tonsil stones is persistent bad breath. One of the most socially difficult symptoms is having just awful breath that no amount of brushing or gum chewing is going to fix. Unfortunately, you have a little ball of putrefying food particles and mucous literally stuck in your throat. 

    Every time you take a breath, the noxious odour of that cesspool is being expressed out of your mouth, and anyone within a five-foot radius will instantly know and want to get away. Because they are literally stuck in your throat, you can’t just brush your teeth, chew gum, or suck on a mint to get rid of the nasty smell. Let’s be honest, even after you go to the bathroom and spray that room deodorizer, everyone still knows you just went to the bathroom.  That’s what’s happening with your breath.  You have to get rid of the source of the problem in order to truly fix the problem.
  2. Sore Throat
    Larger stones can cause pain especially when they dig into your tonsils.  Some tonsils stones may even injure the tonsils and cause bruising or bleeding You have a grotesque buildup of rotting “stuff” stuck in your throat that may even be infected.  You can bet that is going to be an irritation and every time you eat, drink or even breath you are going to inflame it even more. 

    Having a sore throat is very common for those with tonsil stones. A sore throat is another common tonsil stones symptom, though most people who have these stones do not get a sore throat. When a person has a tonsil stone as well as tonsillitis, it can be difficult to tell whether the pain is coming from the stone itself or the infection. The presence of a tonsil stone itself can be enough to cause a certain amount of pain or discomfort in the area where it has become trapped, but most people with these stones do not actually feel them. Some people who get tonsil stones notice white debris in the back of their throat, though most people never do see them. While some tonsil stones can be seen in the back of the throat, this is not always the case.
  3. Difficulty Swallowing
    Other people with tonsil stones symptoms find it difficult to swallow, depending on how large the stone is and the location of it. It can also be painful to swallow liquids with a tonsil stone if it is large enough and in the right place.
    Again, that buildup that is located in your throat is going to agitate your delicate tonsils and your throat every time you swallow. Anytime there is inflammation you are going to feel it, and it is not pretty.
  4. Ear Pain
    Your tonsils and your ears share certain nerve pathways. So, if your tonsils are inflamed and causing pain, likely your brain is going to send a signal that the entire area is in pain, including your ears.
    Ear pain is yet another tonsil stones symptom. These stones can develop anywhere inside the tonsil, and because of shared nerve pathways, a person with one of these stones can feel pain in their ear even though the stone is nowhere near it
  5. Swelling of the Tonsils
    Tonsil swelling is also possible when debris collects in the tonsil crypts and calcifies, leading to inflammation from an infection. Depending on how big this calcified material is, you’ll experience a great deal of pain and discomfort in your throat.
    When the nasty little white balls of infected material get lodged in your tonsils, they are going to cause an inflammation resulting in enlarged or swelling of the tonsils.
  6. Choking Tonsil
    Stones frequently cause the very annoying sensation of a foreign object being lodged in the back of the throat. If the tonsil Stones are large in size, then you may feel a choking feeling.
  7. Excessive coughing
    Some people who develop tonsil stones actually end up coughing them up, though usually, this is not the case. If you cough up a hard white particle, there is a chance that it is a tonsil stone that has been dislodged from the tiny pockets of the tonsil.
  8. Experiencing Tonsil chronic inflammation/Infection
    Most people who get tonsil stones do not experience severe pain unless there is an inflammation/ infection of the tonsils. Bacteria is one of the different types of debris that can get trapped in the tonsil’s crypts, sometimes leading to an infection that requires surgical removal.

If you notice any of the symptoms of tonsil stones, go to your doctor and have yourself checked. If you do have tonsils stones, you can either remove the tonsil stones yourself have your doctor remove them for you. You even have the option of having your tonsils removed so you won’t have to suffer from tonsil stones ever again.

How to get rid of tonsil stones?

treat tonsil stones
How to Treat tonsil stones

Typically the only way to definitively determine if a person has tonsil stones is by performing an MRI or CT scan on them, though sometimes they can be seen in the back of the throat. These stones appear as small hardened particles that can be as small as a grain of rice or as large as a pea.

If it’s confirmed that tonsil stones are a presence, then there are several treatment protocols for tonsil stones, right from home remedies to medical procedures. Depending on the severity of the symptoms that tonsil stones cause, you can opt for one of the following treatments.

If you have severe symptoms, you should not waste time getting treated by a qualified ENT specialist. Always remember that timely treatment is very important, so make sure you consult the specialist timely to prevent the complications and suffering in the future.

You can also go for natural ways to treat the problem as there are many natural remedies available to treat the problem completely.

There are several methods of tonsil stone removal, some of them extremely drastic methods, and some of the more gentle and long-lasting.  Which one you choose to use will depend on many personal factors.

Read more at our Tonsil Stones Treatment Guide

Nowadays, we can find so many ways to remove the tonsil stones:

Tonsillectomy – Surgical Removal

Tonsillectomy tonsil stones
Tonsillectomy for serious tonsil stones issue

The last step is having tonsils removed in a procedure called a Tonsillectomy. It is not recommended to have Tonsillectomy unless recommended by a medical professional

The most drastic and expensive way of removing tonsil stones is to simply remove the environment in which they form completely.  This can be done through an expensive and painful procedure known as a tonsillectomy.

While this will eliminate the issue completely, resulting in a lifetime free of the problem, it will set you back $6-10,000 for the surgery alone.  Additionally, you can count on at least 3 weeks of eating pudding and ice cream (which may not be too bad if you think about it).  You will also need to stay in the hospital for several days, and may not be able to work for several more.

Additionally, the pain will be excruciating while the wounds caused by the surgery heal.  Remember, the tonsils are in your throat, every time you breathe, eat or swallow you will be agitating the area.

Antibiotics for Tonsil Stones

Use Antibiotics for tonsil stones treatment
Use Antibiotics for tonsil stones treatment

Another tonsil stone removal method would include the use of prescription antibiotics.  While this will help the infection that a stone may cause, it does not treat the underlying condition. You will more than likely suffer re-occurrences of the underlying infection, and be forced to take multiple rounds of these drugs for the rest of your life. Additionally, antibiotics have their own set of side-effects that can cause other problems at the same time.

Salt Water Gargle for Tonsil Stones

Treat tonsil stones by Gargling water salt
Treat tonsil stones by Gargling water salt

An additional tonsil stones removal technique is using a salt water gargle.  Simply take an amount of warm water, a cup or so should do, and add regular table salt to it so that it tastes like ocean water in your mouth while leaning your head back. With the water in your mouth gargle but do not swallow for a couple of minutes.

While the salt water gargle may help alleviate some of the discomforts, it too does not treat the underlying problem of the stones themselves. It is simply a way to reduce some of the symptoms.

At Home Tonsil Stones Removal

At Home Tonsil Stones Removal
At Home Tonsil Stones Removal

In some instances, you can use a pick or q-tip to actually dislodge the stones from the tonsils and you simply spit or pick them out.

While this is one way how to remove tonsil stones, it comes with some caveats.  First, it is sometimes very difficult to do because of our natural gag reflexes.  Go ahead and try to stick a q-tip down your throat and see how easy it is to not gag, it is definitely not easy.

Additionally, it like many of the other remedies, does not help the underlying issue.  You may be able to get the current problem dealt with, but unless you make some other modifications, those little stinky balls of gunk are going to return and you’re going to have to treat them again.

Try coughing, massaging the throat, or by using a cotton swab or oral irrigator like a Waterpik

No Treatment Option for Tonsil Stones

no treatment option tonsil stones
No treatment option tonsil stones

When tonsil stone symptoms are present, they are typically mild and not a major reason for concern.
Tonsil stones usually become dislodged or dissolve on their own, so treatment is typically not necessary