Tonsil Stones or Tonsilloliths are hard, yellowish deposits that build up inside the tonsils. Tonsils are the paired round, red balls at the back of the throat, on each side, whose primary responsibility is to act as the body's first line of defense. Tonsils trap bacteria, viruses, etc., that come through the oral cavity and initiate an immune response against them after recognizing them.
Causes of Tonsil Stones
To improve the tonsil's efficiency in order to trap various kinds of foreign agents, the tonsils increase their surface area by building crypts and furrows that lead deep into the gland. Food particles and other debris such as dead cells, mucus, and saliva, can get trapped in these pockets. Bacteria and fungi feed on this buildup and over time, the debris hardens into a tonsil stone.
It is common for people to not realize that they might have tonsil stones. Tonsil stones vary in size and aren’t always easy to see. Tonsil stones rarely cause any major health complications.
Symptoms of Tonsil Stones
Most people with tonsil stones have or show no symptoms. In some cases, the following symptoms are noticed:
The appearance of yellowish particles inside the throat
A foul smell when the stones appear because tonsil stones provide a home for anaerobic bacteria, which produce foul-smelling sulfides
Pain or pressure in your ears
Ongoing cough and trouble in swallowing
Prevention and Remedies for Tonsils Stones
1. Maintain good oro-dental hygiene. The bacteria that attack your teeth are the same ones that can cause infection in the tonsilloliths, leading to a bad smell. Taking good care of your teeth and gums is the first step to prevent tonsil stones.
2. Vigorous saline gargling. Gargling with warm salt water can ease any discomfort in the throat and may help dislodge (force out or remove from position) the tonsil stones.
3. Tonsil reshaping is another option. Sometimes, under local anesthesia, the surface of the tonsil can be reshaped using coblation cryptolysis. In coblation cryptolysis, radio waves transform a salt solution into charged ions. These ions can cut through the tissue and reduce tonsil crypts. This is a procedure which is done by your doctor.
4. Tonsil removal, if suggested by the doctor. Though not usually recommended, the only sure way of getting rid of recurrent or persistent tonsilloliths may be by way of a tonsillectomy. Tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of tonsils, done under general anesthesia.
In case you experience severe pain in your throat, along with a foul smell and pressure in your ears, do not delay in checking with your ENT specialist.
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