Tonsil stones, officially known as Tonsillolith, is a terrifying condition. The stones look like teeth growing in the back of your throat. But what are they really?
Your tonsils make white blood cells and antibodies that help fight off infections. But tonsils also have cavities called tonsillar crypts, which can be so deep that food or mucus may get stuck inside. Over time, those bits of debris calcify and harden into pale yellow growths.
You may have tonsil stones and not even realize it, as most need to peer hard into a mirror to see them. They can be microscopic to a few centimeters in diameter. However, if someone else notices them when you’re talking, it can be very off putting.
Luckily, they rarely cause larger health complications and aren’t contagious. The occasional side effects of tonsil stones include swelling tonsils, bad breath, difficulty breathing, sore throat, ear pain, ongoing cough and pain when swallowing.
Poor dental hygiene, large tonsils, smoking, chronic sinus issues and chronic tonsillitis are the common causes of tonsil stones. Brushing the tongue, gargling with salt water and drinking plenty of normal water are all good ways of preventing tonsil stones.
This condition occurs in around 10% of the population. They most often appear in young adults and are rare in children. Doctors have removed tonsil stones that range from 0.10 ounce to as large as 1.5 ounces.
Tonsil stones usually take care of themselves by falling out of your tonsils. But if they’re stubborn, you can remove them yourself with a cotton swab. And if you find yourself plagued by tonsil stones, you may want to consider having your tonsils removed altogether. There are a range of products designed to remove and prevent tonsil stones, however most doctors recommend following the accepted prevention/treatment methods.