What Are Tonsil Stones?
The tonsils are masses of lymph tissue situated in the back of the throat. Tonsil stones (also called tonsilloliths or tonsil calculi) are clusters of calcifications, or stones, that develop in the tonsil’s craters (crypts).
What Are Symptoms of Tonsil Stones?
Tonsil stones are hard and look like white or yellowish formations on the tonsils. Frequently, tonsil stones do not cause symptoms. Small stones are common and are often swallowed without patients having symptoms or knowing they exist. Large stones are rare.
When symptoms occur, they include:
- Persistent bad breath (halitosis)
- White or yellow formations on the tonsil
- Sore throat
- Tonsil swelling
- Difficulty swallowing
- Feeling of an object being stuck in the back of the throat/choking feeling
- Ear pain
- Chronic tonsil infection/inflammation
Tonsil stones may result in tonsillitis in children (inflammation of the tonsils). Symptoms of tonsillitis may resemble those of tonsil stones. Additional symptoms of tonsillitis may include:
What Is the Treatment for Tonsil Stones?
Tonsil stones often dissolve on their own, are coughed up, or are swallowed and no treatment is needed.
However, tonsil stones in children can often be more problematic than those in adults because children cannot remove them on their own. This can lead to tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils).
If tonsil stones do not go away on their own, treatments include:
- Medications used to treat tonsil stones may include
- Laser treatment (laser tonsil cryptolysis): a noninvasive treatment used to minimize or remove tonsil crypts where tonsil stones can become lodged
- Coblation cryptolysis: a treatment that uses radio waves to change a salt solution into charged ions that can cut through tissue to reduce tonsillar crypts and get rid of tonsil stones
- Tonsillectomy: surgical removal of the tonsils, usually a last resort but the only cure for the condition
Removing tonsil stones in children at home is generally not recommended because tonsils are delicate tissues and bleeding and infection may occur if stones are not removed carefully. If tonsil stones are painful, large, or your child is having difficulty breathing, see a pediatrician.
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