You’ve heard of kidney stones. You may have even heard of gallstones, but tonsil stones? Tonsils are the soft tissue that lies on either side of the back of the throat. It’s also one of the body’s key immune defenses, preventing germs from entering the body; however, sometimes tonsils can deal with issues, too. One such problem is tonsil stones.
What are tonsil stones?
Tonsil stones are also known as tonsilloliths, and they are calcified clusters of bacteria and other debris that form on the tonsils. The tonsils have folds and nooks where bacteria and dead cells can get trapped. If this happens, the debris calcifies in these little nooks within the tonsils.
Who gets tonsil stones?
Those with chronic tonsil inflammation or infections like tonsillitis are more prone to getting tonsil stones; however, this condition can happen to anyone.
What are the symptoms of tonsil stones?
If you have small tonsil stones, then you may not even experience any symptoms. Sometimes an ENT will only be able to diagnose tonsil stones through an x-ray. However, for those with larger tonsilloliths, you may experience these common symptoms:
- Bad breath
- Sore throat
- Ear pain
- Problems swallowing
- White tonsils
- Swelling of the tonsils
Can you prevent tonsil stones?
Since the majority of patients who experience regular tonsil stones are those who have chronic tonsillitis, the only way to truly prevent tonsil stones from happening is to remove the tonsils altogether; however, a tonsillectomy is performed under general anesthesia and may cause a sore throat for a few days after the procedure.
How are tonsil stones treated?
Your treatment plan will depend primarily on the size of the tonsil stones and the symptoms you are experiencing; however, for many patients, treatment may not be necessary. This is particularly true for those who do not have any symptoms or discomfort. For those who need relief, gargling with warm salter water can ease the pain of tonsillitis and tonsil stones.
Antibiotics can also be prescribed to treat tonsilloliths. While antibiotics can be effective, they will not prevent tonsil stones from happening in the future. For patients with extremely large or painful tonsil stones, surgery may be necessary; however, this is a simple outpatient procedure that can be performed under local anesthesia.
If you have tonsil stones or you are dealing with recurring tonsillitis, it’s important that you turn to an ENT doctor to find out why you are dealing with these symptoms and how to best treat them.