What Causes Tonsil Stones?
Find out how tonsil stones develop and what your treatment options are.
When we think about stones we often think about kidney stones, but this isn’t the only area of the body where these hard and sometimes painful stones can appear. Another area that you may also experience stones is the tonsils, the tissue found in the back of your throat. Find out more about how tonsil stones happen and how an ENT doctor may treat them.
What causes tonsil stones?
It might not seem like it but there are folds and crannies in the tonsils where bacteria, food and dead cells can get trapped. When you eat, small bits of food stick to your tonsils. Bacteria then move in on the tonsils. With this buildup of gunk, at some point it becomes calcified and turns into a hard white lump known as a tonsil stone. Some people may have tonsil stones but not even know it.
Who is at risk for tonsil stones?
Those who tend to get chronic tonsillitis or other infections in the tonsils are more likely to develop tonsil stones. You are also more at risk if you still have your tonsils or adenoids (obviously!). If you are also someone who suffers from post-nasal drip this can also increase your chances of tonsil stones. Cigarettes smokers are also at risk because the smoke lingers on the back of the throat, negatively affecting the overall environment of the tonsils and adenoids.
What are the symptoms of tonsil stones?
Most small stones won’t cause symptoms, but if they are larger you may notice any of these issues:
- Sore throat
- Bad breath
- Problems swallowing
- Tonsil inflammation
- A white lump on the tonsils
How do you treat a tonsil stone?
If the stone is small enough and not causing you any symptoms then our ENT specialist may not recommend needing treatment. Sometimes people can gently and carefully remove these stones at home using a swab. If you are experiencing any inflammation or discomfort you can gargle with salt water several times a day.
For tonsil stones that are very large and cause discomfort, we may recommend that you have them surgically removed. This can easily be performed while under local anesthesia.
Don’t let painful tonsil stones get the better of you, call your local otolaryngologist for the care your mouth needs to get you back on the road to recovery.