Tonsils (tonsillitis): symptoms, causes, treatment


Tonsil stones, also known as tonsilloliths, form when debris falls into the pockets (sometimes called crypts) of the tonsils. Trapped debris, such as dead skin cells, white blood cells, and bacteria, becomes saturated with saliva and calcifies to form a stone ball.

People who have these tonsil pockets have hidden tonsils, smelly tonsils, or chronic caseous tonsillitis. Tonsil stones are generally harmless to health, but can sometimes cause discomfort, such as a sore throat, a feeling that something is stuck in the throat, dry mouth, and halitosis (bad breath) .

Tonsil symptoms

You can see a tonsil stone if you cough something small, rock hard, and smelly. Tonsil stones are white to yellow in color.

Instead on the tonsils, if you don't know what they are, they can sometimes look like pus. You may not always be able to see these stones until they are enlarged.

Halitosis associated with tonsil stones is sometimes serious because common bacteria that contribute to the formation of tonsil stones are known to produce sulfur. This putrid odor can sometimes be released by disturbing or removing the tonsil stone.


Chronic inflammation can cause crypt formation and fibrosis (thickening and scarring), creating an ideal site for stone formation. People who have tonsillectomy generally do not develop tonsil stones, even if some of the tonsil tissue grows back .

Age can play a role in your risk of developing tonsil stones, and children are the least likely to develop tonsil stones. Adolescents and adults are much more common than children, and chronic inflammation caused by throat or ear infections is believed to increase your risk.

Watch out

Good oral hygiene with toothpaste and mouthwashes is not enough to eliminate bad breath associated with tonsil stones or to prevent tonsil stones from forming. The only way to cure bad breath is to get rid of tonsil stones.

You should not try to remove tonsil stones with sharp objects because you could accidentally damage the tonsil tissue and because the tonsils are very close to major blood vessels.

Water irrigators (water intakes) have been shown to help remove some of the stones from the tonsils. However, it is generally not accepted that the stone is completely removed and you are likely to have some symptoms, such as bad breath.

You can get rid of tonsil stones with a procedure called CO laser cryptolysis (2). In rare cases, tonsillectomy is required .

Although tonsillectomy will subsequently remove all tonsil stones, surgical removal of the tonsils is generally not a good enough reason for this operation. Your doctor can evaluate the benefits and risks of having a tonsillectomy to remove tonsil stones.

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