Tonsil Stones: Symptoms, Causes & Removal

Removed tonsil stone

Tonsil stones, also referred to as tonsilloliths, are small, hard lumps that form on the tonsils. These stones form as a result of food debris and bacteria building up and calcifying on the tonsils.

Small stones may be asymptomatic, but larger stones can cause irritation, bad breath, and obstruct your airway and esophagus. A dental visit allows your oral health provider to examine your tonsils and recommend a treatment plan to alleviate symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Tonsil Stones

Most tonsil stones are small enough that they don’t require medical care and may resolve on their own. However, several symptoms characterize the development of tonsil stones, which may require treatment.

  • Halitosis: Bad breath is the most prevalent symptom of tonsil stones. Typically, the smell is sulfuric, like rotten eggs.
  • Bad taste in mouth: You may experience a metallic taste in the back of the throat due to tonsil stones.
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing: When tonsil stones form, they can be accompanied by inflammation. This can lead to difficulty swallowing or a feeling of having something stuck in your throat.
  • Small patches on tonsils: A small white patch or bump is usually visible on the affected tonsil when a tonsil stone develops. You may also spit out small yellow or white lumps.
  • Difficulty breathing: If the tonsil stone grows to a large enough size, it can obstruct the airway and make breathing difficult.
  • Sore throat: Tonsil stones irritating the throat may cause it to appear red and inflamed.

Causes of Tonsil Stones

Tonsil stones are caused by debris trapped in the tonsillar crypts, which calcifies. This can often be food, although bacteria, fungi, and mucus can also form tonsil stones. They can also develop due to allergies when you have an upper respiratory tract infection like the flu, a common cold, or a post-nasal drip.

Treatment of Tonsil Stones

If you notice a tonsil stone before it gets too large, it is possible to treat it yourself at home. However, if the stone grows too large or you experience recurring tonsil stones, it may be necessary to see a dentist.

  • Rinsing with salt water: Using a saline solution can dislodge the stone, especially if it is small.
  • Cotton swab: If you can see the stone on your tonsil and it is not particularly large, it may be possible to remove it using a cotton swab. This must be performed carefully, as rough treatment of the tonsils can lead to further infection or irritation.
  • Rinsing with apple cider vinegar: Rinsing with a solution of apple cider vinegar can help dislodge tonsil stones. The acidic nature of the vinegar may break down the tonsil stone, allowing easier removal. It also eliminates harmful bacteria that could cause a tonsil infection.
  • Dislodging with a dental pick: If you cannot treat a tonsil stone at home, a healthcare provider may use a dental pick to dislodge the stone.
  • Surgery: If you are experiencing recurring tonsil stones accompanied by pain or infection, you may have to have your tonsils removed.

Tonsil Stone Treatment at Hinsdale Dental

If you have a large tonsil stone or your tonsil stones are causing pain, difficulty swallowing, or obstructing your airway, it is essential to schedule an oral exam with a professional at Hinsdale Dental. If you are concerned about your tonsil stones, call (630) 323-5200 and schedule an exam.

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