What are Tonsil Stones?
Tonsil stones (aka tonsil calculi or tonsilloliths) are yellowish or white calcifications that develop on the tonsils—the fleshy pads that line the back of the throat. They can be as small as a grain of rice grain or as large as a grape.In general, tonsil stones are caused by an imbalance in the oral microbiome, but specific causes can vary.
Tonsil stones build up in the crypts (crevices) of your tonsils and can result from a number of causes including poor dental hygiene, chronic mouth breathing (during the day or at night), deep crevices (crypts) in the tonsils (where food particles can become lodged), large tonsils, chronic tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils), hormonal changes (like during pregnancy), or too much calcium in the blood without enough vitamins K2 and D3.
A mild case of tonsil stones may go unnoticed. However, once they make it feel like you constantly have to swallow or cause nasty halitosis (bad breath), tonsil stones can be a major inconvenience.
The most frequently reported symptoms of tonsil stones are chronic bad breath and feeling like you constantly need to swallow. Oth common symptoms of tonsil stones include:
- Visible yellowish or white stone on the tonsils (on one or both sides)
- Sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Ear pain
- Persistent cough
- Swollen tonsils
Tonsil stones often fall out on their own, but, if they’re uncomfortable, you may be able to remove them on your own.
Proceed with caution. Tonsil stone removal can be simple and easy. Unfortunately, some sources recommend home remedies that are not safe, like using tweezers or a toothbrush to dislodge tonsil stones.
To remove tonsil stones at home safely, try the following home remedies:
- Vigorously gargle with warm salt water.
- Use an oral irrigator (water flosser) to gently spray water to dislodge the calcified stone.
- Very gently nudge tonsil stones with a cotton swab.
- Make yourself cough.
Some stubborn tonsil stones must be removed by a dental professional. If gargling, coughing, and other manual remedies don’t work, you may need to see a healthcare provider about surgical removal of your tonsil stones.
Minor surgical procedures are commonly performed for large or particularly painful tonsil stones. Your tonsil stones can be surgically removed by a dentist, oral surgeon, or an ENT specialist (for severe cases).