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Tonsil stones form when food debris, mucus, or other particles collect in your tonsils. You can try removing tonsil stones on your own with a few home remedies.
Tonsil stones can be annoying, but fortunately, they often respond well to home remedies. Here are six methods you can try:
Gargling with warm salt water can sometimes dislodge tonsil stones. Salt water rinses can also relieve discomfort and promote healing.4
You can also try gargling with watered-down date, apple, or grape vinegar. Studies have found vinegar to be effective at destroying bacterial biofilms associated with tonsilitis.5, 6
You can use a cotton swab, a tongue depressor, or the back of a toothbrush to push the tonsil stones out. Be careful not to use a sharp object, like a toothpick, which could injure you.
Also, avoid using your fingers to dislodge the stones. Doing so might scratch your tonsils or introduce them to the bacteria from your fingers.2
A water flosser or oral irrigator provides a safe, contact-free way to remove tonsil stones.7 Keep the water pressure low to avoid irritation or injury.
Sometimes, a powerful cough can be enough to knock tonsil stones loose.2
Some people believe that adding certain foods to your diet can help remove or prevent tonsil stones. Foods you can try include:
Tonsil stones sometimes go away on their own. Regular brushing, flossing, and gargling might be sufficient to eliminate them over time.
Good oral hygiene can also help prevent tonsil stones.1, 2
Tonsil stones (also called tonsilloliths or tonsilliths) are small calcified deposits that sometimes form on the surface of the tonsils. They’re often visible as white or yellow lumps in the back of your throat on your tonsils.
The surfaces of your tonsils contain multiple small pockets or folds, known as tonsillar crypts. Over time, these crypts can accumulate material, which hardens or calcifies, resulting in pebble-like tonsil stones.
In addition to calcified solid material, tonsil stones often contain multiple living microorganisms, such as bacteria.1
The following may contribute to the formation of tonsil stones:
Tonsil stones often occur on their own. They may also cause or be caused by chronic tonsillitis.2 Recurrent infections cause inflammation, which can enlarge the tonsillar crypts.3
While tonsil stones aren’t usually considered a serious health risk, they sometimes feel uncomfortable. They also cause bad breath and/or a bad taste in the mouth. In most cases, you can easily remove them at home.
In many cases, tonsil stones may go away on their own, otherwise, a tonsil stone can be removed at home.
Possible symptoms of tonsil stones include:
If your tonsil stones are part of a tonsillitis infection, you might also notice the following symptoms:
Talk to your doctor or dentist about tonsil stones that:
These cases may require professional care, whether to get rid of the tonsil stones or to treat an underlying infection.
According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, “Immunocompromised patients who develop chronic tonsil stones should see their dentist and possibly an ENT for evaluation and treatment.”
Your doctor or dentist can diagnose tonsil stones by visually examining them. They might examine them further after removal.
If you’re suffering from other symptoms of tonsil or throat infection, they might administer a throat swab or other test to determine the cause.
Tonsil stones may not require treatment beyond removing them and maintaining good oral hygiene. If you have difficulty removing them at home, your dentist or doctor will help.
Tonsil stones that are especially large or otherwise problematic may need to be removed surgically in a procedure called tonsillectomy.2, 7 Tonsillectomy is the complete surgical removal of the tonsils.
A tonsillectomy can positively impact the quality of life in people with severe, recurring throat or tonsil infections.8 In other cases, it provides little or no benefit.9 It can also lead to complications, including postoperative bleeding.10
If you’re concerned your tonsil stones might warrant tonsillectomy, or you simply want to know your treatment options, consult your doctor or dentist.
Tonsil stones left alone may not cause severe complications, though they may continue to be bothersome. If they’re a symptom of chronic tonsillitis, visit your doctor.
Tonsillitis can cause missed school, work, and other activities. It can sometimes lead to a peritonsillar abscess and even rheumatic fever or kidney inflammation (though these are rare in the developed world).11
You can prevent tonsil stones from forming by maintaining good oral hygiene, which includes brushing the teeth and tongue, flossing, and avoiding smoking or high-sugar diets.
If you know you’re prone to developing tonsil stones, try the occasional salt water gargle after meals. This clears away food debris that may contribute to tonsil stone formation.1
Tonsil stones are calcified deposits that form on your tonsils. Trapped food particles, bacteria, and mucus can cause them.
Most tonsil stones are asymptomatic and don’t indicate severe health issues. In some cases, though, tonsil stones can be irritating. They can make it hard to swallow and cause bad breath. They may also be a sign or a cause of chronic tonsillitis.
You can often safely remove tonsil stones at home with remedies such as salt water rinses, dislodging them with a cotton swab, or coughing. If they recur frequently or come with chronic throat or tonsil infections, you should consult your doctor about professional treatment.
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