Tonsil stones form when debris like dead cells, food or other types of substances become lodged or trapped on the outside of the tonsils. Over time this debris hardens, which results in the formation of tonsil stones. These stones are also known as tonsilloliths or tonsil calculi, can in some cases aggravate the throat and the tonsils.
These formations appear as yellowish or white hard masses, that range in size from tiny to extremely large. The biggest tonsillolith was recorded at 14.5cm in 1936.
Many people who have tonsil stones in many cases are not aware of their presence, yet tonsil stones will become a breeding ground for bacteria accompanied by an unpleasant or bad smell.
The tonsils are explained as small protrusions of tissue that are situated in the back part of person’s throat, one situated on each side. The tonsils assist in fighting infections which enter the throat or mouth by trapping viruses, bacteria or any other foreign invaders. They then encourage the immune-system to fight these types of germs.
Tonsil stones are typically easy to treat from home. These stones will often detach from vigorous gargling. If you have noticed tonsil stones on your tonsils, yet you don’t have any of the symptoms, they still need to be removed.
You can use a tool such as a cotton-swab that will gently loosen and remove the tonsilloliths by gently pressing on the tissues that surround the stone. The swab should be positioned behind each stone before gently pushing forwards. Make sure you push the stones to the front part of the mouth instead of down your throat.
You should visit your doctor when:
– You have symptoms associated with tonsil stones even when the stones are not visible
– Trying to remove the stones from home was unsuccessful, or when you only managed to remove a piece of a stone
– Your tonsils are painful, swollen or red
– You still feel pain after you have removed the tonsil stones at home
Your doctor might suggest treating your tonsil stones with laser-resurfacing. There is also a process known as coblation-tonsil cryptolysis which involves a procedure that reshapes the tonsils, which minimises the crevices, where the stones usually grow.
This is a procedure which is usually done under a local-anaesthetic. You are able to resume your normal activities and diet within a week. It is important to note that tonsil stones can grow back.
The permanent way to prevent the development of tonsil stones will involve removing your tonsils through a tonsillectomy. This surgery is generally a safe procedure but can result in a painful throat for a number of days following the surgery.
Similar to all surgeries, removing tonsils come with some risks. This can include infection, bleeding or swelling which can cause breathing difficulties.
If your tonsil stones are just a slight or minor irritation, then the stress and risks associated with surgery may outweigh the overall benefits.