Edmonds Medical Clinic Articles

Tonsil Stones (Tonsilloliths)

What are symptoms and signs of tonsil stones?

You may not have any symptoms, you may smell bad breath even though your teeth and tongue are clean, and yellow particles like rice grains may come out of your mouth while brushing your teeth.

You may have a sore throat, and a feeling of a foreign body, such as something stuck in your throat when swallowing. And you may have a tickle throat, or a sore ear.

The tonsils are often swollen. It is labeled as stone, but it is not as hard as a stone.

What are the causes?

The most common cause is chronic tonsillitis. If you have tonsillitis frequently, small holes in the tonsils, called the tonsillar fossa, can become enlarged. Food debris gets caught in this enlarged hole, and bacteria multiply well, and the bacteria clump with food debris, forming small grains, and tonsil stones.

Poor oral hygiene, rhinitis or sinusitis can cause a runny nose to easily pass over the back of the throat, creating a condition where bacteria are prone to proliferation in the tonsils, and tonsil stones are commonly happened.

How is the diagnosis?

During oral examination, yellow particles on both sides of the uvula are visually detected and diagnosed.

If the particles are too small to be visible to the naked eye, an x-ray, CT scan, or throat endoscopy is sometimes done.

What are the treatments?

In the case of asymptomatic, no treatment is required.

A simple way to do it at home is to gargle with salt water often, or you can remove it yourself with your hand or a cotton swab. Gargling mouth with a prescription drug called ‘chlorhexidine’ is also effective. If you have rhinitis or sinusitis, steroids or antibiotics may be used.

A procedure that removes a hole in the tonsils with a laser (called cryptolysis) is sometimes performed. If you have tonsillitis more than 3 times a year, it is advisable to perform tonsillectomy.

Any complications?

Bad breath and feeling of foreign bodies are the main symptoms. Even if left alone, unlike the stones in other parts of the body, they do not cause serious problems.

How to prevent tonsil stones?

When tonsillitis develops, it is important to treat it properly and quickly.
Keep your mouth clean to prevent germs from growing.

Drink water frequently and brush your teeth right after meals. Gargle your mouth frequently with gargle liquid or salt water.

Yoon Park, MD
Family Medicine
Edmonds Medical Clinic