Tonsils are one of the more mysterious parts of the human anatomy. Many experts believe tonsils are part of the immune systems and act as traps for viruses and bacteria that you either ingest or breathe. Some people, young and not so young, experience chronic inflammation of the tonsils and must have them surgically removed. This surgical procedure is very common, and the vast majority of cases yield no adverse complications.
Tonsil stones, as the name suggests, are small calcifications in the tonsils. The stones typically go unnoticed until they have grown and can be felt as you swallow or speak, but the primary symptom of tonsil stones is bad breath. Here are some tips you can follow to help prevent tonsil stones from occurring in the first place.
What is a tonsil stone?
Your tonsils are glands that are situated at the back of the throat. They actually have a semi-rough texture because they are full of nooks and crannies. Those little spaces make for a perfect environment for food, bacteria, mucus or dead cells to catch and then bond with each other. What begins as an invisible (to the naked eye) dead cell can quickly snowball into a large chunk of debris. Ultimately this larger chunk will calcify and become pebble-like piece ‘stone’ that can sometimes be visible in the back of your throat.
What are symptoms of tonsil stones?
Smaller stones may not be visible in your throat, but many larger ones can be identified with the naked eye – they usually appear as white granules. That said, the red flag symptom of a tonsil stone is bad breath. Stones can give off the smell from sulfur compounds contained within them, which can produce a foul odor.
Other symptoms can include a sore throat, a cough, trouble swallowing, swelling of your tonsils or even ear pain.
What is the treatment for tonsil stones?
There are several treatment options for tonsil stones. The short-term plan usually calls for a course of antibiotics. This may help break up and disintegrate the stone, but antibiotics can cause unpleasant side effects and aren’t always successful. Surgical removal of particularly large stones can be performed, but if tonsil stones have been a chronic issue, this may only be a temporary solution. Finally, your doctor may recommend a tonsillectomy – a full removal of the glands. This is usually the recommended course of action if you’ve had chronic, bothersome occurrences of stones for a long time.
Tonsil stones can range from mildly annoying to quite uncomfortable, so if you suspect that you’re developing them, or if you know that they’re in your medical history, be sure to notify your dentist. The Fioritto dental team can work with you to establish a treatment plan.