Tonsil stones, also known as tonsilloliths, are small lumps of hard material that form in the crypts of the tonsils. They are often mistaken for an acute infection of the tonsils due to their appearance, which resembles tiny white pebbles or dots. While they are a common and usually harmless condition, they can cause chronic bad breath and tonsil pain, as well as other symptoms such as earaches, coughs, and sore throats.
Tonsil stones are caused by the irregular surfaces of the tonsils, which contain deep crypts and craters that can trap bacteria and food particles. Over time, these substances can become compacted and harden into tonsil stones.
At-home measures for removing tonsil stones include gargling salt water, which can help dislodge them from the tonsil crevices. This method can also be beneficial for improving overall oral hygiene.
For some patients, tonsil stone removal by a specialist may be necessary. This may involve a procedure called a tonsillectomy, which involves the removal of the tonsils. While a tonsillectomy is a relatively common procedure, it is typically only recommended for severe or recurrent tonsil stone cases, or for cases in which the tonsils are causing other health problems.
Preventative measures for tonsil stones include regular gargling after meals, maintaining good oral hygiene, and staying hydrated. While these measures may not prevent tonsil stones from forming completely, they can help reduce the likelihood of developing them and improve overall oral health.