Ever Had Tonsil Stones? Hard white or yellow formations on the tonsils called tonsil stones, also known as tonsilloliths, affect one in ten people. While brushing your teeth, you might have noticed a tonsil stone in the back of your throat. Or you might have wondered what it was when you coughed one up.
The good news is that tonsil stones typically only result in bad breath and are not harmful. Frequently, they can be managed without surgery. Tonsil stones can be removed surgically with a tonsillectomy, but most of the time it is not required. Gargling following a meal can aid in the removal of stones and stop new ones from growing. Larger stones can also be easily removed by your doctor in the office, according to Henry Ford Health otolaryngology (ENT) specialist Alvin Ko, M.D.
In this video, Dr. Ko describes the causes of tonsil stones as well as the diagnosis and treatment options.
What Causes Tonsils Stones? – Ever Had Tonsil Stones
The glands on either side of the back of your throat are called tonsils. They consist of tunnels and fissures known as crypts. Food particles, secretions, and bacteria develop and solidify in the tonsil crypts to cause tonsil stones.
“Why some people develop tonsil stones while others do not is a mystery to us. Some people’s tonsils may have wider fissures. Or they might consume foods that are difficult for the mouth to dissolve. Alternatively, the bacteria in their mouth might more readily lodge in the tonsils, according to Dr. Ko.
What Are The Symptoms Of Tonsil Stones?
Most people don’t know they have tonsil stones until they inadvertently cough one up, says Dr. Ko. As your dentist examines your mouth, they might find tonsil stones. Tonsil stones can occasionally be seen during imaging tests, such as CT scans, that are performed to assess other medical conditions.
The majority of tonsil stones are symptomless. Tonsil stones may cause bad breath in certain patients. The exact cause of a sore throat, cough, or swollen tonsils is unknown. Patients are frequently in pain due to other conditions when they exhibit these symptoms.
For instance, acid refluxing back up the oesophagus (the tube that connects the throat and stomach) is known as laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR). A sore throat or the sensation that something is stuck in your throat can be brought on by this illness. According to Dr. Ko, “Many patients with tonsil stones who complain of a sore throat also have LPR.” “In addition to allergies, other sinus issues could be the cause of throat pain.”
Tonsil Stone Diagnosis
A comprehensive head and neck examination by an ear, nose, and throat specialist will include a close examination of your mouth and throat. Dr Ko advises patients to “tell your doctor about all of your symptoms and medical history.” “Symptoms frequently indicate the presence of other disorders in addition to or instead of tonsil stones.”
Moreover, your doctor might use an endoscope—a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end—to examine your throat and nose. You will be given an anaesthetic to numb the inside of your nose prior to the examination. To perform a thorough examination of your throat, your doctor will carefully thread a tube into your nose.
How Are Tonsil Stones Treated?
Dr. Ko advises, “Remember that tonsil stones are harmless and do not pose a risk for any complications if you do have them.” “You can take steps to reduce their frequency, even though some people find them annoying or unattractive.”
Dr. Ko suggests gargling with plain water, water that has been lightly salted, or water that has been mixed with a dash of hydrogen peroxide after every meal as a first treatment. Gargling can help get rid of food particles and bacteria that can get lodged in your tonsils. This should be done after brushing your teeth.
Some people might want visible tonsil stones removed, even though it’s not necessary. Larger stones can be delicately removed by your doctor in the office, frequently with the use of a cotton swab or other tools.
Using a water pick on the lowest setting is the safest way to remove stones yourself. Use a gentle stream of water to mist the tonsils. A stone can also be carefully loosened and removed with your fingertip or a cotton swab. Steer clear of sharp objects as they have the potential to rip tissue and cause bleeding.
See your doctor about having your tonsils removed surgically (tonsillectomy) if you are still having tonsil stones. “Surgery can remove tonsil stones, but there are certain risks associated with the procedure that are often overlooked,” Dr. Ko states. Prior to having surgery, he counsels patients to think about the following information:
- Risks associated with general anaesthesia: Before surgery, you will be given general anaesthesia to help you sleep through the process. Although general anesthesia is safe, those who also have high blood pressure, diabetes, or obesity may experience complications.
- Risks associated with surgery: After tonsil removal, 2% to 9% of patients need follow-up care to stop bleeding.
- arduous recovery: Following surgery, the majority of patients experience excruciating throat pain for seven to ten days. Even though some discomfort can be managed with medication, most people miss work or school during this recuperation time.
According to Dr. Ko, “Your doctor can help determine the best treatment option based on your other symptoms and how often you develop tonsil stones.” “Many people find that the number and frequency of tonsil stones significantly decrease when they begin with more conservative treatments, like gargling.”
reviewed by Dr. Alvin Ko, an otolaryngologist who practices at Henry Ford Medical Center-Lakeside in Clinton Township, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, and Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, seeing patients of all ages.