Once commonplace, the number of tonsillectomies performed in the United States has dropped significantly in the past 30 years. Some studies indicate this may be a good thing overall, but one possible side effect is that the number of cases of tonsil stones may be on the rise. What are tonsil stones, and how do you know if you have them?
What Is a Tonsil Stone?
Tonsils are lymphoid tissue located in the throat on either side of the base of the tongue. Tonsils serve two purposes. First, they help prevent matter from going down your airway. And, as part of the lymphatic system, they filter out bacteria and viruses while producing antibodies. Bacteria and debris that collect in the grooves of the tonsils are attacked by white blood cells and the hard particles, or “stones,” left behind are usually swallowed without you even knowing about them. However, if the particles become lodged, they can continue to grow.
Symptoms of Tonsil Stones
It’s possible to have tonsil stones and not show any symptoms. You may be able to see them as small white or yellow specs on the tonsils, but they may be hidden in the folds of the tonsils. Bad breath and redness, swelling, and irritation of the tonsils are the most common symptoms of tonsil stones. Other symptoms include difficulty swallowing, sore throat, a sensation that something is stuck in the throat, and recurring tonsillitis. Ear pain can also occur due to shared nerve pathways between the throat and ear.
It is interesting to note that the same bacteria that cause tonsil stones can also cause gum disease, tooth decay, and infections. Good oral hygiene helps to control those problems and goes a long way toward preventing tonsil stones from ever forming. Removal of the stones at home is possible by carefully gargling with salt water or rinsing the tonsils with a water pic.
However, if you have the symptoms of a tonsil stone but can’t see any evidence, or tonsil stones keep reappearing or just won’t go away, it may be time to see us for more effective solutions.
If you or your loved ones still have tonsils and are concerned about the possibility of tonsil stones, call us at Reston Serenity Smiles for a diagnosis and plan of treatment that is right for you.