Your tonsils are your first line of defense against infections that may enter the throat and esophagus area. They are like lymph nodes in your neck, which also have the same function. They can, however, be prone to infection and inflammation. Sometimes the deep pitted areas in each tonsil can have an accumulation of decayed food particles. This will enlarge each tonsil and make room for more infection. These tonsil stones are usually yellow or white and can become annoying and cause your breath to be foul and your throat and neck to not feel normal.
Even if you keep up your oral hygiene, you can still be susceptible to infections and tonsil-area stones. Usually when children get recurrent sore throats, a tonsil problem can occur. If you burn the back of your throat after swallowing liquid or food, you can cause stones to form.
If someone has strep or a stone issue, antibiotics, such as penicillin, are the first line of defense against them. This isn’t a long-term solution for the stone problem. A doctor would rather have a patient try over-the-counter and home remedies for a while before recommending surgery. If you are prone to sore throats and immune system conditions, learning about tonsil stones may be helpful.
What Are Tonsil Stones?
Tonsil stones are also known as tonsilloliths. They are calcified masses that can form in your tonsils in the deep pitted areas. They are formed from bacteria, dead cells or food particles that have decayed. There are three kinds of tonsil stones depending on the areas of each tonsil. The areas the stones can be trapped in include:
Palatin, sides of the throat
Pharyngeal, back of throat area
Lingual, base of your tongue
In most cases, they are harmless, but they can become a problem. Many times you can remove them yourself with a variety of at-home remedies. Other times when they recur, they can cause more problems, and this is when you should talk to a doctor.
Signs You May Have Stones
Many times, when you have tonsil stones, you won’t know it. They may clear up during the normal course of eating, drinking and good oral hygiene. However, if they increase in size, you may notice the following symptoms:
Signs Of Stones:
White or yellowish specs in tonsil areas
Inner ear pain
Tonsil Stones Home Remedies
When you first see stones, they are usually small. You can try to use your finger or a homemade rinse to get rid of them. It’s difficult to rid yourself of them if you have a bad gag reflex, and they are at the back of your mouth.
When you first notice the white-ish, pale yellow (sometimes) pitted areas of your tonsils, you may try to poke around back there with your finger. This sometimes can help; other times, it’s best to use a clean and sterile tool. Always remember to make sure any tool you use is sanitary. There are also rinses, oils and foods that can help eliminate the stones. Many natural remedies are great for cleansing your throat and tonsil area because they have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial components in them.
Home Remedies That Can Help:
Apple cider vinegar diluted with water to gargle
Garlic capsules as a supplement or garlic on food
Salt water rinse
Apples, carrots or onions
Apple Cider Vinegar, Garlic and Cotton Swab
Image via Pexels
Apple cider vinegar as a rinse is great. You can dilute it with water and gargle it. Vinegar can break down the stones because it is acidic. Garlic foods or taking garlic as a supplement in a gel pill or a capsule can be beneficial as an antibacterial agent. It is great for boosting the immune system and can help with bacterial overgrowth and infections. You can use a cotton swab or your finger to release the lodged stones out of your tonsil areas. Make sure your finger is clean as you could jab your tonsils with a fingernail and create more of an infection.
A cotton swab is usually an effective way to get rid of stones as they are small and can be tossed in the trash after use. Many people find that coughing can dislodge a tonsil stone. It really depends on the size of the stone; larger ones are usually easier to get rid of using the coughing technique.
Essential Oils, Salt Water and More
If you are into essential oils, these can also help with this medical condition. A variety of oils have anti-inflammatory properties, and some are also antibacterial. Myrrh and lemongrass oils have helped eliminate tonsil stones. Also, rinsing with salt water can help ease a sore throat and tonsil stones and help with inflammation. It can also help reduce redness and ease the symptoms.
There is a variety of foods that can help with tonsil stones. You can eat yogurt which is essentially a probiotic; this helps eliminate tonsil stones. Also apples, carrots and onions are great for their antibacterial properties. Apples are acidic and can combat the bacteria in a tonsil stone. Carrots are also anti-inflammatory and a natural antibacterial. They can help reduce or eliminate your tonsil stones. Onions, like garlic, are antibacterial and can help prevent or eliminate tonsil stones.
The Permanent Solution for Tonsil Stones
Many of these remedies can assist with prevention and elimination. However, if you have recurrent tonsil stones or sore throats, many ear, nose and throat doctors or primary care doctors will recommend that you have your tonsils removed. A tonsillectomy is painful and requires several days to heal; however, this is the only permanent solution to removing tonsil stones.
Is There a Need For Medical Treatment of Tonsil Stones?
When tonsil stones are large and cause you severe pain, this is probably when you need to see an ear, nose and throat medical doctor. Once you have tried all of the remedies and they don’t go away, you may need tonsillectomy. Many times, if you continually have to use a finger. a cotton swab or the coughing technique to get them out, the infection and inflammation can get worse.
Sometimes you can have persistent tonsil stones, and they cause more harmful symptoms. If they become an irritant, they can cause more significant immune system problems if they won’t go away after home treatment options. Most doctors will prescribe around of antibiotics. This is never a permanent solution, however. This will only help with the current infection you have. If you are allergic to penicillin, you may require surgery. If you have one or more of these conditions that persists, you also want to get checked by your doctor for throat or tonsil cancer. Most of the time, a tonsillectomy is the only recommendation if you have a chronic problem with your tonsils and tonsil stones.
Stones and Signs to Watch for:
- Tonsils: larger than before
- Blood in your throat or saliva
- Painful to talk or swallow food
- Cannot eat citrus fruits or food
- Constant neck pain and swelling
- Lump in neck
Surgery: The Permanent Solution For Stones
A tonsillectomy can be accomplished using different methods. The old way was to cut them out; most doctors don’t do it this way anymore. There is less bleeding, and the recovery time is faster cutting them out, however. The main surgical way today is laser removal, and you are under anesthesia. There is also a procedure where doctors can use coblation cryptolysis. This is when radio frequencies and heat dissolve the tissue. The important thing to remember is that a tonsillectomy, like any surgery, is not without risk. There are risks of bleeding, and it could be life threatening. There is also a risk with anesthesia. It is important to understand all risks. There can be a potential complication from a tonsillectomy surgery.
Options for Tonsil Stone Issue:
Laser treatment to smooth out tonsil pitted areas
Cut tonsils out (surgery)
Laser removal of tonsils (surgery)
The tonsils provide defense from infections in the throat and the esophagus area, but sometimes they can get infected. These infections can lead to yellow or white areas on the tonsils: tonsil stones. Most tonsil stones are harmless, but they can be a little annoying or drive you crazy. They can become a constant irritant and make you gag. Sometimes you won’t develop symptoms until they become large. When stones cause an issue with breathing or eating and you have swollen neck glands and painful tonsil areas, you need to seek medical attention.
Gargle and try home remedies to remove or sooth the tonsil area. Always use tools that are clean as you don’t want to create more pitted areas or an infection. More lacerations in the tonsils will cause an infection in the sensitive area. Be careful when using any remedy at home. Having a consult at an ear, nose and throat doctor will help you decide if removal is needed.
Clara was born and grew up in Great Britain, and although she’s now happier with the weather in North Carolina where she resides with her partner, she does miss the ubiquitous teacakes. She graduated from a master’s in literature and worked for about 5 years at local news magazines as a reporter.