Tonsil stones, also known as tonsilloliths, are hard yellow or white formations that appear on or within the tonsils. Most people do not even realize they have tonsil stones as they aren’t easy to see and can range from the size of a rice grain to the size of a large grape. Tonsil stone rarely causes significant health complications, but they can at times grow into a larger formation of swelling, which often has an unpleasant odor.
What causes Tonsil Stones?
The primary function of the tonsils is to filter foreign objects and prevent them from slipping into the lungs. They do this by producing antibodies and white blood cells to attack the dirt, food, and other particles that get stuck in the groves on the surface of your tonsils. However, when white blood cells finish their job, some hard particles may remain on the tonsils. Although most people basically swallow these particles that are left behind and never realizes they were there in the first place, some may get stuck into the crypts and continue to grow and form tonsil stones, also called tonsil calculi. According to Otolaryngology journal, tonsil stones are a living biofilm triggered by poor dental hygiene, chronic sinus issues, large tonsils, and chronic tonsillitis or inflamed tonsils.
What are the symptoms?
Though you might not see the stones, there are signs that can indicate you might have tonsil stones. The symptoms of tonsil stones include:
Bad Breath: About 75 percent of patients with tonsil stones also suffers from halitosis or bad breath, which stems from the tonsil stones.
A sore Throat: When you have tonsil stones, you will realize that the area around where your tonsils are located will hurt. The stones can cluster together, cause pain in the throat, and you may feel uncomfortable when swallowing (a sore throat makes swallowing painful).
Tonsil Swelling: Because the tonsil stones are partly bacteria, etc., they can make your tonsils swell.
Ear Pain: Almost everything that affects your throat may cause ear pain, and tonsil stones aren’t an exception. Because your throat and the ear canal are connected, a tonsil stone may cause ear pain given that they share the nerve pathways between the two areas. Thus, a tonsil stone may still cause discomfort, although they may not be anywhere near the ear.
How to Treat Tonsil Stones
Tonsil stones shouldn’t worry you that much, as in most cases, they do not require treatment, especially if you’re not experiencing any symptoms or they aren’t bothering you. Typically, your doctors may recommend gargling warm water mixed with salt to relieve the symptoms. However, for people who experience tonsil stones more regularly, feel comfortable, and would want to have them removed, they can do so surgically. In the extreme cases where your tonsil stones get extremely large, your doctors may elect to remove them through a surgical procedure. However, you should inquire about the benefits and the risk factors before deciding to go for the procedure.