Many people have heard of kidney stones or gall stones. Not many people have heard of tonsil stones or “tonsilloliths”, even though they are relatively common. In fact, you may know someone that has them!
What are Tonsil Stones?
Tonsils are made of lymphoid tissue and they are near the back of your mouth, near the base of your tongue. Tonsils can have an irregular surface with crevices that can be very deep. These crevices can become filled with and trap small particles of food, bacteria, dead cells, mucus, and other material that over time can solidify or calcify or harden to become tonsilloliths. These look like small white dots, or whitish bits of material on the tonsils (pictured at right).
Tonsilloliths can be irritating to patients as they are a cause of halitosis, bad breath, and chronic sore throat. They can cause chronic tonsil irritation, throat irritation, and have been associated with postnasal drip. Sometimes these tonsil stones can even become dislodged so patients spit out white chunks of material.
Tonsil Stone Treatment Options
Tonsil stones that cause no symptoms don’t require any treatment. Those that cause bad breath, irritation, or sore throat can sometimes be treated with salt water gargles or water pik irrigation.
Sometimes patients try to remove these stones themselves at home. It is not recommended that you do this. Removing them with an object, especially a sharp object like a pencil, can cause tonsil bleeding that is difficult to control.
For patients with symptoms that aren’t improved by gargles or irrigation, tonsil removal can successfully resolve the problem.
If you’re interested in learning more about allergy and sinus treatment options from Dr. Franzese and her team of specialists please call her office directly at (757) 889-5632.
About Dr. Christine Franzese
Christine Franzese, MD, FAAOA, is a board certified otolaryngologist. She completed a residency in Otolaryngology at University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. Dr. Franzese’s specialties include: allergies and allergy shots, sinus problems (acute and chronic), mild asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, thyroid masses or nodules, salivary gland disorders and nodules, and pediatric ENT issues (ear infections, tonsillitis). She has surgical expertise with removing tonsils and adenoids, thyroidectomies, parathyroidectomies, parotidectomies, and has extensive experience with sinus surgeries. She offers functional endoscopic sinus surgery, image-guided sinus surgery, and balloon sinuplasty procedures.