Tonsil Stones: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

If you have whitish lumps around your throat area and you feel pain when swallowing food and even just drinking water, there’s a good chance that what you have are tonsil stones (also known as tonsilloliths). Try to observe your breath. Do people lean away from you when you speak? Having bad breath goes hand-in-hand with these stones.

What are Tonsil Stone Exactly

The stones grow in your throat’s folds as a result of food debris, mucus because of post nasal drip, dead cells from the lining of the mouth, as well as various types of bacteria that get trapped. As it stays there, it hardens and calcifies or becomes hard. They emit a foul odor because of their very composition that’s why having them can be a source of great embarrassment and cause you distress socially too.

Major Components:

The major component of tonsilloliths is calcium. Other minerals like carbonate, ammonia, phosphorus and magnesium are also present in the stones. They are irritating and are uncomfortable too. Tonsil stones sometimes may not exhibit any symptoms. But mostly they are associated with bad breath. Most of the time it may also cause pain and swelling.

Size as a critical factor:

The size is important criteria to decide which treatment should be considered. Smaller stones which produce no symptoms may be treated at home by using natural methods like removing them by ear buds, toothbrush or fingers.

Of course this should be done very carefully as they are embedded in a delicate thin membrane of crypts and there are chances of rupture of the tonsils.

It is advisable to make the area moist by gargling warm salty water or by putting two to three drops of edible table oil, such as olive oil. If the size and symptoms of Tonsil stones are easily noticeable, then it is a must to take the advice of a medical practitioner.

10 Main Causes

Until today, the specific causes were not well known, but bad breath causes the accumulation of calcium and other minerals.

Many times they form on the upper part of the mouth or in the throat area. Generally, these stones are quite small in size and form in the tonsil area. There are very rare chances of acquiring large and solidified tonsil stones.

Sometimes tonsils are compelled to filter a huge flow of lymph fluid. This lymph fluid include junk particles which may get created due to a number of reasons and causes tonsil stones.

Top 10 main causes are:

  • Environmental Toxins
  • Sinus Infections
  • Allergy
  • Post Nasal Drip
  • Stress
  • Autoimmune Disorders
  • Alcohol
  • Refined Food
  • The conditions which dilute the lymph fluid
  • Bacterial and Viral Infection

7 Most Common Symptoms

The problem with tonsilloliths is that it can be quite difficult to diagnose in some situations. Of course, it would be a lot easier if the stones are visible in the first place. But if they are not, you may have to rely on other symptoms.

Sadly, the other symptoms can be mistaken for an entirely different disorder. For instance, it may be misdiagnosed as a simple tonsillitis.

Most of the times small tonsil stones may not cause any symptoms which are noticeable. Even when the stones are large, some of those are only noticed incidentally through X-rays or CT scans. The well known symptoms of tonsilloliths are red and swollen tonsils, which can be seen easily. Similarly the other symptoms are

  • Swollen lymph nodes/ tonsils
  • Discomfort and pain in throat
  • Fever
  • Sore throat and irritation


Let us see in details all the symptoms:

1. Ear pain
One can have these stones anywhere in the tonsil area. But it may cause ear pain as the network of nerves is connected.

2. Sore throat
When other diseases like cold and flu occur with tonsil stones, it becomes very difficult to find out the cause of pain. The presence of a tonsil stone itself can cause pain or discomfort in the area of its formation.

3. Tonsil swelling
The collected debris get hardened and a tonsil stone forms. An inflammation from infection, if there is any and the tonsil stone itself can cause a tonsil to swell or get enlarged.

4. Bad breath
The prime indicator of a tonsil stone is terrible bad breath, which is also called halitosis, accompanies a tonsil infection. A research study with patients with chronic tonsil stones used a special test to observe whether volatile sulfur compounds were responsible for bad breath. The result of this research stated that the presence of the foul-smelling compounds of sulphur provided objective evidence of bad breath. The researchers observed that 75% of the patients who had very high concentrations of sulphur compounds also had tonsil stones. Some researchers have suggested that the presence of these stones may be considered when the cause of bad breath is in question.

5. Difficulty in swallowing
According to the location or size of the tonsil stone, it causes difficulty or pain in swallowing foods or liquids.

6. White debris
Sometimes tonsil stones are easily visible at the back of the throat as a lump of solid white substance. This is not the always the case. Generally, the stones are deeply embedded in the tonsils. In such instances, the stones may be detectable with non-invasive scanning techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging or CT scans.

7. Frequent Coughing
If the stones are big enough to irritate the top area of the throat this tends to naturally cause people to try to cough to try to get rid of the “foreign” substance that is causing the sensation. The make up of the tonsil stones may result in a metallic taste in one’s saliva.

You may have never thought before that stones can develop on your tonsils. Many people think that medical conditions that are classified as ‘stones’ are commonly known to develop only in the bladder, kidneys, liver, and such. However, tonsil stone is a real condition that needs immediate treatment. To combat tonsil stones effectively, it is important that you learn more about it first.

Treatment & Remedies: 3 Best Methods

Tonsil stone is a real condition that needs immediate treatment, To combat them effectively, Below mentioned are the best 3 treatment options available.

1. Physical Removal

These methods are only applicable if the stones are visible. You can also use these methods for removing stones that are hidden but not embedded too deep into the tissue folds of the tonsils.

Method 1: Using An Oral Irrigator

Things you will need:

  • Oral irrigator
  • Mirror
  • Mouthwash or oxygenating gargle
  • Flashlight

What you need to do:

  1. Make sure your mouth is clean so as to avoid infection. Brush your teeth and use mouthwash.
  2. Ready the irrigator by filling its reservoir with clean water. Also, make sure that the irrigating nozzle is clean and sterile.
  3. In front of a mirror, open your mouth wide and get a clear view of your tonsils.
  4. Then gently and slowly irrigate the affected tonsil using the oral irrigator. Control the direction of the water flow so you can go deep into the folds and thus flush out the stones hiding in there.
  5. Stop once in a while and gargle using mouthwash or oxygenating gargle. This will prevent infection.
  6. Make sure to USE THE LOWEST SETTING ONLY. This is important. If you use any higher setting, you could potentially damage your tonsils and cause bleeding. This in turn can lead to infection.

Method 2: Using A Medicine Dropper

What you will need:

  • Medicine dropper with curved tip
  • Mouthwash or oxygenating gargle
  • Mirror
  • Flashlight

What you need to do:

  1. Make sure your mouth is clean so as to avoid infection. Brush your teeth and use mouthwash.
  2. Make sure that the medicine dropper is clean. Sterilize it first or soak it in an oral disinfectant.
  3. Squeeze the air out of the medicine dropper by squeezing the rubber. Hold it this way.
  4. Gently and slowly use the curved tip of the dropper to find stones that are situated between the tissue folds of your tonsils. When you find one, direct the tip of the medicine dropper on the stone and release the rubber so as to produce a suction effect. The resulting vacuum should suck out the stone and remove it.
  5. Gargle with oxygenating gargle or mouthwash every now and then so as to avoid infection.

2. Slow Removal

In some instances, it may not be safe to perform the removal methods previously discussed. For example, the stone may be embedded too deep into the tissue folds of your tonsils and removing them using an irrigator, a cotton swab, or a medicine dropper can be too risky. So what will you do?

Method 1: Hot Water Sip

What you will need:

  • 1 spoonful Turmeric powder
  • 1 spoonful sugar
  • Hot water
  • Straw for sipping

What you need to do:

  1. Melt the turmeric powder and sugar in a glass of water. Drink the mixture in large gulps. By doing so, the mixture can go deep into the nooks and crannies of your tonsils.
  2. Fill the glass with hot water. Slowly sip it down using a straw. After drenching your tonsils in turmeric and sugar, the hot water will slowly melt the stones away. You may have to do this several times before you see any improvement.

Method 2: Alum And Saline

What you will need:

  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 pinch alum

What you need to do:

  1. Melt the salt and alum in a glass of water.
  2. Gargle using the solution every 2 to 3 hours. Make sure to gargle deep so as to soak the back of your throat in the solution.
  3. Rinse the outer part of your mouth with water so as to prevent drying. But let the back of your throat soak in the solution.

Method 3: Sweet Lemonade

What you will need:

  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoonful honey
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

What you need to do:

  1. Make a juice by mixing the above ingredients in a tall glass of water.
  2. Do not gulp the juice in a quick. Instead, slowly sip it down using a straw. It is a refreshing drink anyway so enjoy the moment.
  3. Do this at least twice a day.

3. Surgery

Nobody wants things to end this way. However, some cases may actually require surgery. For example, the stones situated deep into the tonsil may have grown too big and surgery is the only way to remove it. Also, the tonsilloliths may have become a recurring disorder and removing the tonsil may be the only option left.

But depending on the severity and the condition of your tonsil stones, your doctor will suggest the most suitable surgical procedure. But to give you some ideas, the following are some of the surgical procedures your doctor may suggest:

Tonsillectomy
It refers to the complete removal of these tonsils. By doing so, the possibility of the tonsil stones from ever coming back is reduced to zero. Some doctors however are reluctant to suggest this surgical procedure because they believe that the tonsils play an important role in the body’s immunity.

Curettage
This is a surgical procedure that uses a tool called curette to scrape off or scoop off affected tissues. This procedure is useful for removing oversized tonsil stones.

Laser
Actually, this method is more of a preventive measure. After the stones have been removed, your doctor may use a surgical laser tool to resurface your tonsils. This effectively removes the crevices and nook and crannies on the surface of your tonsils. As a result, debris will no longer accumulate and stones will no longer form.

And these are just some of the available treatment methods for getting rid of tonsil stones. One must also find some effective preventive measures that are designed to keep these stones from ever coming back once you have succeeded in getting rid of them.