Most often we tend to forget the presence of little organs that play vital roles in our body. One such most-often ignored organ is the tonsils. Tonsils are lymph nodes that are located at the back of the throat and form a part of the immune system. They combat against the germs and microbes invading the mouth and prevent microbial infections.

Sometimes, small calcified masses called tonsil stones form in the tonsils due to improper health practices. They may or may not be harmful depending on their development. Here’s a detailed article that elaborates everything you need to know about tonsil stones.

What are tonsil stones?

Tonsil stones, also called tonsilloliths, are calcified yellow or white stones that form on the palatine tonsils, which are present on the sides of your throat. Their size varies from person to person. The smaller their size is, the lesser harm they cause. These tonsilloliths usually cause bad breath due to the accumulation of bacteria and dirt.

What causes tonsil stones?

Tonsil stones are caused when dirt, bacteria, food particles, and mucus accumulate in the crypts of your tonsils. This debris hardens into tonsil stones after several weeks. Being a part of the immune system, the tonsils receive lymphocytes (white blood cells) produced in the body to fight against the foreign invaders in this region. When these lymphocytes are done with their task they become calcified residues. 

The tonsil stones are typically harmless, but they may cause complications in serious cases. Since tonsil stones are perfect breeding sites for bacteria, you must take measures to get rid of them. 

Signs you may have tonsil stones

Often, you may not know if you have tonsil stones as they might dislodge naturally while eating or drinking. When the size of the stones increases, you will probably notice the following symptoms:

Tonsil Stones
  • Bad breath (Halitosis) due to sulfur
  • Sore throat
  • Persistent cough
  • The feeling of something being stuck in your throat
  • Swelling in the tonsils
  • Difficulty in swallowing food
  • Pain behind the ears
  • White or yellow-colored spots at the back of your throat 

Tonsil stone removal

Do you want to get rid of the bad smell caused by tonsil stones? There are various procedures by which you can remove them. Here’s a list of medical procedures:

1. Manual removal: 

You can manually remove your tonsil stones at home, but it is risky. Using your fingers or a toothbrush to remove the stones may cause bleeding in the affected area and infection. Hence, it is advisable to use a light material such as a cotton swab to remove the tonsil stones gently.

2. Laser Tonsil Cryptolysis: 

Laser tonsil cryptanalysis is the process of elimination of the tonsil crypts where the tonsil stones reside, using laser technology. This is usually performed by injecting local anesthesia. Pain and discomfort prevail for a few days, and patients can return to their normal diet in a week.

3. Coblation Cryptanalysis: 

Though the use of lasers to eliminate the tonsil stones has advantages such as speedy recovery and lesser pain, it has several disadvantages too. The laser damages the body organs if it undergoes internal reflection. Hence, coblation technology is used, where no heat is involved. 

In coblation cryptanalysis, radio waves are passed into a saline solution to excite the electrolyte into charged ions. These ions create a focused plasma that breaks down the tissues in the point of contact at low temperatures without affecting the surrounding tissues.  Coblation cryptanalysis is a safer method as it does not cause a burning sensation.

4. Tonsillectomy: 

Tonsillectomy is the removal of the tonsil by surgery. This procedure is carried out when the tonsil stones have become severe and highly chronic. It causes severe pain when compared to Laser and Coblation technology. 

5. Antibiotics: 

Antibiotics have proved to dwindle the activity of several bacteria in recent years. Consumption of these drugs lowers the bacterial infection in the tonsil crypts for a short time. Antibiotics do not help in removing the tonsil stones  but help in preventing their growth and development. Since antibiotics cannot be taken for a long time, they help control the starting stages of tonsil stones.

How to get rid of tonsil stones at home?

Tonsil stones can easily be removed at the comfort of your home when they are small and less dangerous. Any natural remedy with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties will work in combating the bacteria that cause tonsil stones.

1. Gargling with salt water: 

Gargling is one of the safest methods to remove annoying tonsil stones. Dissolve ½ teaspoon of salt in a cup of hot water, and gargle vigorously. The hypertonic salt kills the bacterial population in the infected area and also helps in forcing out the tonsil stones.

Tonsil Stones
2. Coughing: 

Energetic coughing can loosen the tonsil stones depending on their size. You must be careful not to cough aggressively as it might cause discomfort in your throat.

3. Gargling with Apple cider vinegar: 

Like saltwater, apple cider vinegar can also be trusted for gargling. Add a few drops of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and gargle. The acidity of the apple cider vinegar helps in breaking down the tonsil stones. 

4. Removing with cotton swabs:

Sometimes, tonsil stones are so tiny and easy to reach that they can be removed manually at home by using a cotton swab. You must be careful while doing this as it might infect your tonsils if the stones are too large to be removed manually. Gargling with salt water after the removal relieves the pain, and eases discomfort. 

5. Consuming yogurt:

Usually, consuming yogurt is prohibited for people with throat issues due to its chillness. But, yogurt is rich in probiotics that help in wiping out all the accumulated bacteria.

6. Garlic: 

Chewing fresh garlic cloves releases allicin, which has antimicrobial properties and helps in counteracting the bacteria that cause tonsil stones. You might feel it hard to chew a garlic clove due to its pungency but it brings wonders.

Tonsil Stones
7. Onions:

Similar to garlic, onions also possess antibacterial properties that help in getting rid of detrimental bacteria. 

Preventive measures

However, it’s better to take basic measures to prevent the spread of it. Tonsil stones are formed mainly due to improper oral hygiene. Maintain proper oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly so that food particles do not accumulate in the tonsil crypts. Scrape your tongue to remove the bacteria from your mouth. Gargle your mouth at regular intervals using saltwater or a non-alcoholic mouthwash.

Avoid consuming carbonated beverages and alcoholic drinks. Say goodbye to smoking.

If your tonsil stones are large and cause excessive pain, you must consult a doctor immediately for medical attention. Neglecting the pain when tonsil stones are large may lead to tonsillitis and tonsil cancer. Therefore it is advisable to take time to time consultation and maintain proper hygiene to avoid any disaster later.