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Tonsil Stones: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Also called tonsil calculi or tonsilloliths, tonsil stones can irritate the tonsils and the throat. These mostly harmless growths are fairly common, but they often have an unpleasant smell since they can become a home for bacteria.

Food, dead cells, and other substances, become trapped on the tonsils and turn hard forming tonsil stones. They may look like small white or yellow flecks at the back of the throat.

It is nearly impossible to prevent the growth of tonsil stones; however, good oral hygiene, including frequent brushing and flossing can help.

Some symptoms of tonsil stones:

  • A foul odor when the stones appear.
  • Sensing that something is stuck in your mouth or in the back of your throat.
  • Pressure or pain in your ears.
  • Swelling and redness in your tonsils.

Tonsil stones may be treated at home using a cotton swab and gently pressing on the tissue surrounding the stone - pushing forward so the stone releases toward the mouth, not the throat. Gargling with warm salt water can relieve swallowing difficulties tonsil stones may cause.

You may need to consult your ENT specialist if any of the following occur:

  • You have symptoms of stones but cannot see them.
  • You cannot remove the stone yourself or only a portion of it is removed.
  • You have pain after removing a tonsil stone.
  • Your tonsils are red, swollen, or painful.

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