They are medically called tonsilloliths. They are stony masses present in the tonsillar fossa.
What Are Tonsil Stones?
Hard cystic masses of variable shapes, found on location where lymphoid tissues are present are called tonsil stones. They may be whitish to creamish in color.
How Are They Formed?
They get formed when the debris getting collected in the tonsils gradually gets calcified with time.
What Are Tonsils and How Does Debris Get Collected There?
Tonsils are lymphoid tissues. They are basically a collection of lymphocytes, which are immune cells of the body. These cells fight the germs that try to enter and attack the body.
Tonsils are a type of nets or traps. They are present at strategic locations in the body, like in the oral cavity, over the posterior side. When any invader, germs, dust particles or some allergen, enters the body via the mouth, the tonsillar tissue tries to catch it.
After catching, the tissue itself gets inflamed and swells up. We call this stage as tonsillitis, that is, inflammation and swelling of the tonsillar glands.
During the process of inflammation, the immune cells present in the tonsils fight against the invader.
If this process of inflammation occurs again and again, the condition becomes recurrent and chronic. In such cases, the tonsils may fibrose or get calcified.
Gradually, a tonsil stone gets formed.
When Do You Note That You Have a Tonsil Stone?
Most of the tonsil stones go unnoticed. The get noticed only when they give some symptoms.
Some people are however, keen observers, and may notice the stone’s presence at the back of the throat when they open their mouth wide.
What Symptoms a Tonsil Stone Is Likely To Give?
- Pain in the throat may be there. This happens when the tonsils are inflamed due to the infection or allergen. The tonsils may or may not be enlarged and clearly visible.
- Difficulty in swallowing occurs due to a tonsil stone if its size is too big or its location is such that it comes in way of the food when swallowed.
- Halitosis or bad smelling breath. If you don’t have a caries tooth and still have a bad breath, you need to get checked for the presence of tonsil stones. The presence of stone follows the collection of dead cells, germs and tissue debris in the tonsillar fossa. This collection decays and may give out a bad smell in your mouth.
- Gritty feel at the back of the throat may be an indicative of tonsil stone.
- You may feel a stone in your mouth. This happens when a stone gets dislodged from its place and leaves a hole behind. It may be felt in the mouth cavity.
Are Tonsil Stones Dangerous?
No, they are not dangerous in general. However, if a stone becomes too big and obstruct the food/ air passage, it may be hazardous. Similarly, if a stone fixed to its place in the throat gets infected, medical intervention is urgently required.
Stones are anyhow, indicative of tonsil activity. The are an indirect evidence that your tonsils are carrying infective material for long, and require cleaning.
How Do You Treat Tonsil Stones?
Small stones, giving no symptoms need no treatment. Most of them get dislodged from their position in some time, leaving a hole behind.
Stones that are painful are likely to be infected. Antibiotics are given in such cases, just as in any throat infection.
Big stones, that may cause you difficulty in swallowing, need a surgical removal. The stone is picked up and removed.
Sometimes, the surgeon removes the stone, along with the whole bunch of tonsillar tissue. This is done to avoid recurrences of stone development.
What Is a Stone Comprised Of?
A stone is basically traps dead germs and tissue debris in the tonsil, which is slowly covered by fibrous tissue and calcium salts get deposited over it.
Is There a Potential Problem if the Whole Tonsillar Tissue Gets Removed?
No. Removal of tonsillar tissue from your mouth causes no reduction in your overall immunity.
Is the Stone Removed Under Anesthesia?
Stone removal requires anesthesia. If your doctor picks up the stone and removes it, local anesthesia is sufficient. However, if the whole of the tonsillar tissue requires removal, general anesthesia is needed.
Can We Prevent the Development of Tonsil Stones?
Tonsil stone formation can be prevented. If you keep your tonsillar fossa clean, by regular salt water mouth rinsing and gargling, the debris around which stone formation takes place is removed on a regular basis. This would prevent the development of the stone.
Sometimes, a bit of fingering may be required for cleaning.
Smaller stones can also be washed off by rigorous gargling with slightly salted water.