Ask the Dentist – What are Tonsil Stones?

What are Tonsil Stones?

by Dr Nicole Andersen

Tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths, are the build up of bacterial deposits, dead cells, mucus from chronic sinus drainage, and food particulates that calcify in the deep crypts of the tonsils. This build up can remain trapped in the many crypts and grooves of the tonsils and then calcify. These stones are white or yellow in color and can be seen on the surface of the tonsil but are usually lodged in the irregular grooves of the tonsils. They can have an unpleasant odor and cause bad breath.

While many will experience a tonsil stone, for some, they become a more chronic condition. Some health factors linked to the presence of tonsil stones are a high sugar diet, sinus drainage, dry mouth, and an immunocompromised health system. While gargling with salt water can help keep the tonsils clean, it may not remove them. Occasionally a cough or a sneeze will naturally remove the stone. Some individuals may be able to remove them with gentle pressure on the tonsil to help them dislodge from the crypt. Seeing an ENT specialist may be necessary if the stone becomes too large to remove with gentle pressure.