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What Are Tonsil Stones?

Tonsil stones. Just the name is scary. Now imagine what it’s like to be looking in the mirror and opening your mouth to say, "awwwww", only for it to turn into "ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!! What are those?". We're here to help answer that important question.

How They Form

Tonsil stones also referred to as tonsilloliths, are quite common. They are small, white discharges that form in the crevices of your tonsils. They can be found on either side of the pharyngeal tonsils at the very back of your throat. They occur when bacteria and saliva combine in the small cracks or fissures of your tonsils and range in size anywhere from a grain of rice to a pea. Tonsil stones start out soft in consistency, but the combination of mineral elements from your saliva and foods you eat can turn them into hard calcium deposits, almost stone-like, hence their name.

You may not even know you have them because they are usually symptom-free. Bad breath from tonsil stones and slight swelling of your tonsil may be your only symptoms. However, on occasion, some people have severe symptoms. These include a persistent sore throat, infection, or difficulty swallowing. If you experience any of these, you should contact your healthcare provider to rule out a more serious problem.

Treatment for Tonsil Stones

There isn’t a tonsil stone treatment other than removal. Often, tonsil stones go away on their own. If they don’t and you do not have any symptoms, your dentist or healthcare provider can remove them without anesthesia. If they become a recurring problem, and you have frequent sore throats, swelling, swallowing, or breathing issues, your healthcare provider may recommend a tonsillectomy. A tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure for removing your two small glands (tonsils) in the back of your throat.

 

Tonsil stones are common and generally harmless. They are caused by food particles and saliva getting caught in the crevices of your tonsils. Sometimes this forms small hard calcium deposits that look like tiny white stones. If you experience them often and with complications, like chronic sore throats, your tonsils may need to be removed. But don’t worry, most of the time they don’t cause any problems and go away on their own. You may just want to avoid spending a lot of time looking at them in the mirror.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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