What Are Tonsil Stones?

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Tonsil Stones may be a term that you’ve heard in passing, but never knew what they were. You may get them yourself, but don’t realize it, or it only happens once in a while. Tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths, are relatively harmless and can easily be treated at home. 

What are Tonsil Stones?

Tonsil stones are little calcium deposits that buildup on the mucus membrane coating of the tonsils. Sometimes dead cells, mucus, and even food can get stuck on the tonsil forming this stone. Usually, the stone is a harder texture that can either be white or yellow. They tend to stay the size of a grain of rice, but they can grow to the size of a small grape if there’s enough buildup. If you have large tonsils or repeated tonsillitis, they can be more common.

a scope looking inside someones ear

How to tell if you have a tonsil stone?

Most tonsil stones don’t do much. They form, dislodge when something knocks them loose, and you’re none the wiser. However, some potential symptoms can be:

a walnut in a persons hand

● Your throat feeling irritated or like you have something stuck

● You’re having trouble swallowing, or your throat is redder than normal

● You have bad breath

● White bumps have formed on your tonsil

● You have ear pain, which means a tonsil stone has formed near a nerve

● Your symptoms mimic tonsillitis except for a fever and a headache

How can you prevent them?

If they’re persistent, you can discuss with your doctor about having a tonsillectomy. However, you need to have at least seven cases of either strep throat or tonsillitis a year to meet the criteria for a tonsillectomy. If you get them now and then you can:

bottle of mouthwash sitting on bathroom counter

● Practice good oral hygiene by making sure you brush your teeth and tongue every morning and evening as well as after every meal. Also, you should floss.

● Use alcohol-free mouthwash to flush away bacteria and debris that your toothbrush didn’t get.

● Gargle salt water to keep viruses and bacteria from getting to your tonsils. It also acts as a pain reliever that some tonsil stones cause.

● Use a water pick to flush out any additional debris and bacteria.

Can you remove them at home?

Yes, if they are small stones. You can gently scrape them off with a toothbrush or cotton swab. You can also remove them by gargling salt water or using a water pick.

When should you see your doctor?

Usually, tonsil stones aren’t severe, but if symptoms persist, then you should see a doctor. These symptoms could include having red or irritated tonsils as well as ear pain. You should also see a doctor of your tonsil stones are frequent. There could be an underlying issue causing them.