Tonsil stones are created when small particles become trapped in nooks and crannies on the surface of the tonsils and then become calcified. Small white “stones” or “granules” called tonsilloliths are formed and often mistaken for infection or pus.
The stones are quite easy to dislodge and it is rare that they result in an infection or that a stone becomes enlarged. In fact, it is thought that the reason for the calcification of these particles is to make them easier to dislodge in order to prevent tonsil infection.
However, tonsils that regularly become inflamed or infected are more likely to have tonsil stones.
Although these tonsilloliths do not present any serious health risks, they can be irritating and some of the symptoms may include bad breath, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and earache. Some simple methods to help dislodge the tonsil stones faster include:
Dissolve a tablespoon of salt in warm water and gargle with the solution at least twice a day for a couple of minutes. Alternatively, visit your local pharmacy and ask them for a mouth wash that will help dislodge the calcified particles as well as deal with the other symptoms like sore throat and bad breath.
It is important to ensure that the solution reaches the back of the throat where the tonsils are located. The small stones should disappear within a couple of days but it can take a little longer.
2. Cotton Swabs
If you don’t have a sensitive gag reflex, you can use cotton swabs to remove the tonsil stones. Dip the swab in a warm salt water solution first to ensure that it is warm, moist and disinfected.
It is very important to be extremely cautious and gentle when using this method as you could damage the soft tissue which may result in infection occurring.
The simple act of coughing can dislodge most tonsil stones. Focus on the back of the throat and tonsils and perform a few strong coughs. You can also push the back of your tongue up against your palette as though you are squeezing your tonsils for some additional force.
Remember to spit out the expelled mucous that will contain the stones. Don’t be concerned if there is a foul odor as tonsilloliths do smell bad.
4. Oral Irrigation
This is a very effective method of dispelling the stones but will require the purchase of an irrigator and is not advisable for those with a sensitive gag reflex. It is recommended to buy an irrigator that uses water from the faucet as the force can then be adjusted.
There are many tools to remove tonsil stones but this is one of the most effective.
A low force is recommended to prevent damage to the tissue, especially if the tonsils and throat are inflamed and painful. This is a great investment for those who suffer from inflamed tonsils and tonsil stones on a regular basis.
5. Medical Intervention
If the above methods do not successfully dislodge the tonsil stones, medical intervention may be necessary. The calcification process may continue resulting in larger stones that may become embedded in the tissue creating greater discomfort and are far more difficult to remove.
A tonsillectomy or surgery to remove the tonsils may be recommended if this occurs or for patients who suffer from tonsilitis or infected and inflamed tonsils on a regular basis.
Craters on the surface of the tonsils may also occur due to regular formation of tonsil stones. Laser surgery (called laser cryptolysis) can be performed to eliminate or reduce the size of these craters.
However, this is an elective procedure and not considered medically necessary. In most cases, a tonsillectomy will be recommended rather than laser cryptolysis.