Your tonsils are glands that are located at the back of your throat, on each side. They are made up of tissue containing lymphocytes. The primary function of your tonsils is to help prevent infection; they act in a way that traps viruses and bacteria from entering, thus aiding your immune system. The structure of your tonsils has many crevices where dead cells and mucus get trapped. This means that your tonsils can also be prone to other material getting trapped, such as debris and food particles. When these unwanted pieces of debris enter the tonsils and calcify (harden), they are called tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths.
Signs & Symptoms of Tonsil Stones
Bad breath – One of the most common symptoms of a tonsil stone is bad breath. Because tonsil stones are made up of calcified bacteria, they will definitely contribute to halitosis.
Pain/trouble swallowing – If you have a tonsil stone, you may be able to feel it while swallowing. This may make swallowing difficult or sore.
Ear pain – There are nerves that travel to both your tonsils and ears, so a tonsil stone may actually cause ear pain
White patch in tonsil – A dead giveaway is actually noticing the tonsil stone. It appears as a patch of white debris trapped in the tonsil.
Treatment for Tonsil Stones
Most tonsil stones do not require any treatment and will come out on their own, tiny stones. If a tonsil stone is persistent or large, it may require intervention. The most common forms of treatment for tonsil stones are antibiotics, surgical removal of the stone, or surgical removal of the tonsils if they are prone to collecting tonsil stones.
Prevention of Tonsil Stones
Unfortunately, some people are more prone to developing tonsil stones due to anatomy (such as larger tonsils with more crevices.) If a person is very prone to tonsil stones, the best course of treatment is to have the tonsils removed. It is always essential to maintain good oral health, including brushing twice a day and flossing daily.
If you believe you have a tonsil stone or have any questions about them, it is best to see your family doctor for an assessment.