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Tonsil stones: How to deal with this common oral problem

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  • Tonsil stones are a condition wherein your tonsils produce small white clumps that contain a mixture of bacteria, dead cells, mucus and food particles. These clumps calcify and harden over time
  • This guide will educate you on what you need to know about the condition, from its causes to treatment and prevention

If you’re currently suffering from bad breath, pain in your ears and a feeling of having an object stuck in the back your throat, it’s very likely you have tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths.1 Here’s everything you need to know about this health problem.

Why tonsil stones form

Also known as tonsil calculi,2 tonsil stones is a condition wherein your tonsils produce small, white clumps composed of a mixture of bacteria, dead cells, mucus and food particles. Over time, these clumps calcify and become as hard as stones.3 Tonsil stones are mostly harmless, although some symptoms can cause discomfort. Sometimes, they could be embarrassing, particularly if you develop bad breath.4

Normally, your tonsils serve as the first line of defense against viruses and bacteria. They have crypts that contain immune system cells, which produce antibodies to help eliminate harmful microbes from entering your throat.5

However, factors such as poor dental hygiene, like failing to brush and floss regularly, can cause your tonsils to gather foreign matter, which then harden and become stones.6

Treating tonsil stones at home

There are various approaches to treating tonsil stones naturally. Popular home remedies include:

  • Saltwater solution — Gargling warm water with a bit of salt can help dislodge the stones and alleviate throat irritation.7
  • Coughing — Vigorous coughing may loosen and remove the stones,8 but take note that excessive coughing can damage your throat.
  • Cotton swab — You can use a wet cotton swab to gently loosen and push out the stones. Gargle to remove remaining debris afterward. This may cause injury, however.9

If home remedies do not work, you may need to consult a doctor for surgery. Primary methods include coblation, which dissolves tonsil tissue,10 and tonsillectomy, which is the removal of your tonsils.11 Both procedures have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important that you discuss them thoroughly with your doctor first.

Other conditions that may affect the tonsils

According to Medical News Today, certain conditions may be confused with tonsil stones, such as:12

  • Tonsillitis — The main indicator of this condition is red, swollen tonsils that make swallowing difficult. The Mayo Clinic notes that It is usually caused by viruses, but Streptococcus bacteria strains may be a potential cause as well.13
  • Strep throat This condition is specifically caused by the Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria, which causes throat pain, swollen tonsils, painful swallowing, fever and tiny red spots at the back of your mouth.14
  • Gum disease and tooth decay — The pain caused by these conditions can radiate outward and affect adjacent organs such as the jaw, ears and throat.
  • Tonsil cancer (tonsil lymphoma) — One telltale symptom of this condition is having a sore located at the back of the mouth that does not go away. You might also expel blood through your mouth, have swallowing difficulties and develop pain in the ears and throat.

Learn how to detect tonsil stones with this guide

Tonsil stones can be very bothersome, but fortunately they are treatable. This guide will educate you about what you need to know about the condition, from its causes to treatment and prevention.

MORE ABOUT TONSIL STONES

Tonsil Stones: Introduction

What Are Tonsil Stones?

Tonsil Stones Symptoms

Tonsil Stones Causes

Tonsil Stones Treatment

How to Get Rid of Tonsil Stones

Tonsil Stones Removal

Tonsil Stones Prevention

Tonsil Stones FAQ

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What Are Tonsil Stones?