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What are tonsil stones?

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  • Tonsils are small lumps of tissue found on each side of the back of your throat. Their primary role is to help give primary protection against bacteria and viruses that can cause infections
  • Tonsil stones can produce a variety of symptoms, most notably bad breath. There’s also a chance that your tonsils may become red, swollen and irritated

Tonsil stones, also called tonsilloliths, tonsiliths, liths and tonsillar concretions, are small formations that form when bacteria grow in porous pockets of the tonsils, called the adenoidal or tonsillar crypts. They can also arise when calcium accumulates on desquamated cells. Tonsil stones can appear whether you have a history of tonsil disorders or not. Despite their small size, they can be very foul smelling — giving off a rotten egg odor when crushed.1,2

The role of your tonsils for your health

Tonsils are small lumps of tissue found on each side of the back of your throat. Their primary role is to give primary protection against bacteria and viruses that can cause infections. To do this, your tonsils have a network of crypts (or pits) that are filled with white blood cells and antibodies. They trap the potentially harmful invaders and then help the immune system evolve so it can fight against these foreign elements.3

But when white blood cells are finished attacking the harmful substances, the particles in the crypts remain. Some people swallow these contaminants, never knowing they were there at all. However, if the substances are lodged in the crypts they can continue to grow and harden, turning into “stones.”4

Tonsil stones are fairly small — they usually have a diameter of 1 to 2 millimeters (0.04 to 0.07 inch). Larger stones, however, can measure up to 1 centimeter (0.4 inch) across.5 Despite their small size, tonsil stones can produce a variety of symptoms, most notably bad breath. There’s also a chance that your tonsils may become red, swollen and irritated. In some cases, these formations produce no symptoms at all.6

Tonsillitis is often mistaken for tonsil stones

Tonsillitis, an infection marked by red and swollen tonsils, may sometimes be mistaken as having tonsil stones.7 However, tonsillitis usually happens when bacteria or viruses infect the tonsils, and your immune system triggers inflammation to ward them off, often producing worse symptoms. Some symptoms of this condition include:8

  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fever
  • Muffled voice
  • Headache

If you detect stones or develop swollen tonsils, have yourself diagnosed by a doctor immediately to help prevent further damage to your mouth.

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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Tonsil Stones Symptoms

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