Tonsil is an organ that is located at the back of your mouth. You have one tonsil on each side of the mouth. It is filled with lymphocytes, cells that are made to attack and prevent infections. Many experts believe that tonsils are responsible for trapping and killing bacteria or viruses that come inside the mouth. However, tonsils sometimes would not do their job very well. Some people found out that their tonsils are quite problematic as they often pose a health problem. One of the most common tonsil’s problems is known as tonsil stones, or known as tonsil calculi.
Tonsil stones are also known as tonsilloliths or tonsillliths. It is a condition where stones are formed on or inside the tonsils. Most of the stones are usually very small and hard to see. However, it can also grow and become very large in size. The largest tonsil stone recorded was around 4 cm in size, equivalent to a size of a grapefruit. Tonsil stones can be very hard or squishy in nature and are often yellowish-white in colour. While most people found it troublesome, tonsil stones are deemed as not harmful. It is different to other stones in the body, such as the one that develops in the kidney or gallbladder because there is no underlying disease that causes it. Furthermore, it is also not a sign of cancer or other serious illnesses.
So, what causes tonsil stones? Why do tonsil stones form? As mentioned above, the function of tonsils is to trap bacteria and viruses that enter the mouth before killing them. The structure that helps this process is called crypts. Crypts are pit-like structures that occur on our tonsil. Some people might have deep crypts that may cause a problem. Usually, bacteria, food particles or other debris can be trapped and get stuck in these deep crypts. They will then harden with time and form tonsil stones. So, this is how tonsil stones were created. There are some conditions that cause or accelerate the tonsil stones formation. These include:
- Poor dental hygiene
- Large tonsils (higher chance of having deep crypts)
- Chronic tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils)
- Chronic sinus issues
Most of the tonsil stones, including the large one do not cause any symptom apart from feeling uncomfortable in the mouth. However, some tonsil stones can cause other symptoms such as:
- Bad breath. This is the main symptom that people with tonsil stones experienced. The bad breath is usually very severe and is thought to have come from a mouth infection.
- Sore throat. This symptom usually comes together with tonsillitis. A chronic tonsil inflammation will cause pain and discomfort to your throat.
- Tonsil swelling. The hardened debris inside your tonsils will lead to inflammation and also infection. This will surely make your tonsils swell and appear red in colour.
- Swallowing difficulty. If the tonsil stone is hard and too big, it will make it hard for you to swallow your food.
- White debris. Tonsil stones may be visible if the stones are too big or there are too many of them. It usually will appear as a white lump of solid material inside your mouth.
If you are having tonsil stones, it is very easily treatable. You can treat it yourself by gargling with mouthwash or salt water. You can also remove the stones by using a cotton bud. Make sure to be extra careful as any damage to the tonsils might cause further infection. Besides, you can also make an appointment with your doctor to remove the tonsil stones. This is the safest and easiest option that you can choose from.