Tonsil Stones Explained: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments (2023)

Tonsil Stones Explained: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments (1)

Maybe you had trouble swallowing your food, or maybe you suddenly (or inexplicably) started having bad breath (due to theClinica Cleveland). If you've noticed some small whitish substances coming out of your mouth lately, that probably explains your digestive and hygiene problems.

You can suffer from tonsil stones, which makes you part of a small group of people, about a tenth of the population, according to experts in the United StatesThera-Atem– that these little troublemakers evolve every year. Left untreated, tonsil stones can developtooth cavity, inflammation and infection of the tonsils and other unpleasant health consequences (viahealth line).

Therefore, it is important to understand what the condition entails, what individual factors contribute to it, how to prevent it, and how to treat it properly. Here is the most important information about tonsil stones you need to know to save yourself and your loved ones from the complications they can bring.

What causes tonsil stones

Tonsil Stones Explained: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments (2)

Although the exact cause of tonsil stones is not entirely clear, medical experts have already established that tonsil stones are composed of a biofilm, a substance that forms after microorganisms have built up on any surface ( line). When fungi and bacteria in the mouth come into contact with other substances, they combine and turn into a biofilm.

The biofilm settles in moist areas like the tonsils (the two masses that are around the section where the lower jaw meets the inside of the pharynx). The tonsils are made of tissue that can produce antibodies and lymphocytes that often help treat oral infections (after theAmerican Academy of Otorhinolaryngology). They catch viruses, bacteria, and other foreign objects that get into your mouth and work with your immune system to get rid of them. Normally, these substances are transported via the saliva.

However, since the tonsils have an irregularly shaped tissue, some crypts and openings of different sizes are formed (throughtoday's medical news). Bacteria, mucus, and dead cells sometimes get into these deposits, forming whitish or yellowish stone-like substances. Depending on the amount of matter that accumulates in the tonsil slits, the resulting tonsil stones can be large or small (eg.WebMD).

risk factors

Tonsil Stones Explained: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments (3)

There are several risk factors for tonsil stones. First off, people between the ages of 20 and 40 are most at risk of developing tonsil stones (according to Lumineux Oral Essentials). According to ENT doctor (ear, nose and throat)Aaron Trinidad, if you're in that age group, you probably have a long oneTonsillitis(swollen tonsils) or have had a medical condition in the past that doubles your chances of getting tonsil stones.

If you're taking medications that dry out your mouth, you're also at risk for tonsil stones (via Lumineux Oral Essentials).The One Checklists several medications that have dry mouth as a possible side effect, including antidepressants, decongestants, and heart and blood pressure medications. According to Lumineux Oral Essentials, if you also have infections or a runny nose affecting your throat, you may also have tonsil stones.

Even if you are a big lover of alcohol and refined foods, you are bound to get the disease. Overactive salivary glands, excess food particles getting trapped in the mouth instead of swallowing, or larger tonsils (viaMedicineNet) also increase the occurrence of tonsil stones.

Tonsil stones are not tonsillitis.

Tonsil Stones Explained: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments (4)

There is some confusion when it comes to distinguishing tonsil stones from tonsillitis. Tonsil stones are also known as tonsilloliths, which some like to confuse with tonsillitis (according toClinica Cleveland). Tonsillitis is a health condition that attacks the tonsils, causing inflammation that causes them to swell (viaWebMD).

One thing tonsil stones and tonsillitis have in common is that they both affect the throat. However, tonsillitis tends to occur in young people, while tonsil stones are more common in adults (eg.Smile at Queen Dentistry). While tonsil stones only produce uncomfortable effects, the effects of tonsillitis can cause pain. Tonsillitis also causes a fever, which you don't feel with tonsil stones. If you deal with the infection that causes tonsillitis, the health condition immediately disappears. Meanwhile, tonsil stones can still fall far enough to slip out of position.

Also, most of the time when you have tonsil stones, you won't even notice them (unlike tonsillitis, which can have noticeable effects). While tonsillitis can be caused by bacterial and viral infections and is more common during the colder months, tonsil stones are the result of a biofilm and occur regardless of the time of year.

tonsils and breath stones

Tonsil Stones Explained: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments (5)

Halitosis (commonly known as halitosis) can be an extremely embarrassing experience for anyone, especially someone who constantly interacts with other people. If you suffer from bad breath, people are likely to find that you have poor oral hygiene, regardless of the actual reasons for your bad breath problems.

turns outTonsil stones can cause bad breathlikewise, eating onions or garlic and dry mouth (eg.Scripps).Tonsil TechnologyHe describes the bad breath caused by tonsil stones as having a strong sulfur odor that can easily be mistaken for rotten eggs.

However, it is worth remembering that not everyone who has tonsil stones has bad breath. Some people with tonsilloliths have no symptoms at all, and such people end up having tonsil stones for a long time without realizing it (viaColgate).

expected symptoms

Tonsil Stones Explained: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments (6)

Another common symptom of tonsil stones, in addition to bad breath, is pain in the ears (according toClinica Cleveland). Since the tonsils and ears share the same nerve pathways, the formation of tonsil stones can also cause pain in the ears (viaWebMD).

Tonsil stones can also get very large and land in a position that interferes with the smooth flow of food from your mouth into your stomach, affecting your ability to swallow. Also, tonsil stones can rub your throat painfully and cause you to cough constantly. This causes a sore throat after a while. And if you have tonsillitis and tonsil stones at the same time, it can also cause a sore throat. If a biofilm builds up over time, the tonsils become infected and inflamed, which can lead to swollen tonsils.

The Cleveland Clinic adds that you can also pass small stones with your saliva. Also, you can get antibiotic resistant infections and some white spots may appear on your tonsils.Direct Health AustraliaHe also says those who have tonsil stones but have no visible symptoms may not find out until they have X-rays or dental exams.

Diagnosis of tonsil stones

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It's important to get a diagnosis if you think you have tonsil stones, to be sure you actually have the condition. This is because there are some health issues that could explain your symptoms.

Collin County Ear, Nose and ThroatHe also says that you should consider visiting your local health center for a diagnosis if you have tonsil stones that are slow to grow or if they persist even after you've tried to get rid of them. When you notice your tonsil stones are beginning to interfere with your normal eating, speaking, and breathing patterns, it's a strong indication that you should seek a diagnosis.

AccordinglyCleveland Clinic,Finally, when you visit a health center for an evaluation, your health care professional will perform a physical exam of your throat and mouth to look for signs of tonsil stones. They may also have imaging tests if the tonsil stones are difficult to see or are in hard-to-reach places. The doctor may even take a toothpick and try to remove some of the stones for further examination.

received treatment

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When it comes to treating tonsil stones, you may have several options. This can depend on several factors, such as B. the severity of your case and the size and location of the tonsil stones. There are two main approaches: home remedies and surgical intervention ( line). After your doctor diagnoses you, he or she will tell you how badly your tonsil stones are affecting youthe best possible treatment plansspecifically for your case.

Antibiotics can sometimes be prescribed to treat the condition, but this approach doesn't usually work in the long term as it only treats the symptoms without addressing the root cause. Antibiotics can help reduce the bacteria that infest you and make your case worse every day. Accordinglydaily healthyour doctor may recommend corticosteroids to reduce severe inflammation. Antibiotics can also be helpful if you get bacterial infections while you have tonsil stones (due to theClinica Cleveland). In some cases, however, the biofilm can persist even after antibiotic treatment (via Healthline).

Surgical procedures for tonsil stones

Tonsil Stones Explained: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments (9)

Treatment of tonsil stones through surgical interventions (tonsillectomy, laser tonsil cryptolysis or coblation cryptolysis) is reserved for special and advanced cases only, e.g. B. when tonsil stones increase the likelihood of tonsillitis (egdaily health).

In a tonsillectomy, the tonsils are completely removed. Once removed, the biofilm in the mouth has no places to solidify into tonsil stones. Tonsillectomy is for people who don't want their tonsil stones to come back in the future. However, this procedure is permanent as the tonsils do not grow back once they are removed. In addition, there is a risk of infection and bleeding during the operation. Worse, since tonsillectomy is performed under general anesthesia, you may have to live with significant pain for a few weeks after the's medical newsIt also warns of the danger that can arise if your body reacts severely to the anesthesia used in the procedure.

According to a, coblation cryptolysis appears to be the best surgical option for tonsil stonesto studypublished in the Egyptian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology. It uses saline and radiofrequency energy to dislodge the crypts and openings in the tonsils, which allow stones to grow (according to Everyday Health). Meanwhile, laser tonsil cryptolysis also targets tonsil crypts, but (as the name suggests) with a laser. Both procedures require local (not general) anesthesia, which means less pain and a shorter healing time.

home remedies

Tonsil Stones Explained: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments (10)

Tonsil stones can also be treated at home, such as:today's medical newsNuts

Coughing is perhaps the easiest technique as it creates enough force to loosen the tonsil stones so you can easily expel them. You must try it before trying other treatments. For best results, take a sip of salt water and gargle for a while. Coughing stronger than usual from then on. Low-pressure sprinklers (e.g. water sprinklers) can also help to dislodge tonsil stones. While flossing is fine for adults, you should never use it on children as it can block their airways and cause choking.

Cotton swabs are also effective, but have negative effects (e.g. risk of injury). You can slightly dampen the cotton swab, place it behind your neck and gently push out the stones without hurting yourself. Warming the water, adding some salt, and then gargling the mixture not only helps remove the tonsil stones, but it also provides relief from an itchy throat. Apple cider vinegar and alcohol-free mouthwash are also possible options.

Finally acchealth line, Eating yogurt, onions, carrots, and apples can prevent you from developing tonsil stones due to their ability to fight bacteria.


Tonsil Stones Explained: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments (11)

Tooth decay (caries) is a common complication of tonsil stones and can be more of a burden for someone already struggling with difficulty swallowing, earaches, and other symptoms. This is because it brings with it a number of problems, such as pain when teeth sink into hard or sweet foods (regardless of the temperature), cavities in the teeth and discolored teeth (due toMayo Clinic). Tooth decay can also lead to more serious health problems, such as B. Teeth filled with pus, tooth loss and changes in the position of other teeth after losing a tooth. It can even cause you to lose weight because you have trouble eating.

health linesays that if you get infections while you have tonsil stones, you may need surgery. As with most surgeries, certain complications (such as extremely low blood pressure, lung problems, rapid blood loss, and infected wounds) can occur after the procedure (e.g.,Medicine Johns Hopkins). Additionally, when tonsil stones begin to affect the tonsil tissue, infection, inflammation, and swelling in the throat can occur (via Healthline).


Tonsil Stones Explained: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments (12)

MedicineNetrecommends maintaining a high standard of oral health through frequent brushing and flossing. Tongue scrapers can also help deal with bacteria on the tongue that contribute to biofilm formation.General Dentistry Aubrey Bauden, DDSsays you can use your toothbrush for the same purpose.

Frequent hydration also helps remove bacteria from the mouth and leads to increased saliva production, which reduces the risk of developing tonsil stones. Avoid smoking cigarettes or consuming products that contain tobacco, as tobacco increases the bacteria in your body that allow tonsil stones to form. Reducing dairy and fizzy drinks are other credible preventive measures (according to MedicineNet).Oladocexplains that eating dairy products, spicy foods, and egg yolks can lead to mucus build-up, which speeds up the formation of tonsil stones.

According to MedicineNet, if you aallergic reactionÖsinus infectionyou should treat them as soon as possible, as they can also influence the development of tonsil stones. Also, avoid alcohol, or at least limit your drinking: alcohol dries out your mouth and makes it easier for tonsil stones to form (viaThera-Atem). Keeping the nostrils clear and uncluttered is also recommended to reduce postnasal drip (which can reach the throat and also promote tonsil stone formation).


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