Treating Tonsil Stones

My daughter has very large tonsils with deep crevices. She has large numbers of small, hard lumps that she scrapes out. Her doctor said they were food particles that had gotten stuck. I find this hard to believe. Could there be other reasons for the lumps?
Alice Bradford – Carrollton, Texas

Treating Tonsil Stones

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

The tonsils are sentinels, standing guard at the back of the throat to protect the delicate tissues of our lungs and intestines from foreign invaders. They are part of a ring of defenders, Waldeyer’s Ring (which includes the tonsils, adenoids, and other lymphoid tissue), encircling the back of the throat as an important line of defense. The tonsils and adenoids are largest during childhood; they are front-line guardians while the body’s more sophisticated internal immune system learns and develops.

The situation you describe, Alice, is a very common one. The tonsils usually appear like small, dimpled golf balls set on either side of the back of the throat. Children with large tonsils and deep crypts often do get food particles trapped in there. Because saliva contains digestive enzymes, trapped food begins to break down. Particularly, the starch or carbohydrate part of the food melts away, leaving firmer, harder remains of food in the tonsils. This does not look like the food that went into the mouth.

Tonsillectomy - series

As you suspect, however, there is more to these hard lumps than just food. The tonsils also trap other mouth debris such as bacteria and old cells from the surface of the mouth’s lining. Some of these cells contain small amounts of keratin, the same substance found in fingernails and rhinoceros horns. Whatever the nature of the debris, it is then attacked by white blood cells. The aftermath of this battle leaves the crevices of the tonsil strewn with hardened remains.

Most people swallow this material without ever noticing it, while it is still tiny. In those whose tonsils are large, however, the particles can lodge in the deep crypts, where they continue to grow. The enlarging lumps are called calculi of the tonsil, or tonsilloliths (tonsil stones). These stones are most common during adolescence.

Microscopic studies of these tonsilloliths have shown them to contain a combination of food particles, bacteria, oral debris, and white blood cells in a concentrically laminated pattern — rather like a pearl. Usually they are small gritty particles found in the center of soft, cheesy flecks. Sometimes, however, they become quite large, appearing as rough, yellow or gray, round stones. At times they reach an extraordinary size. Affected people usually have a history of repeated attacks of tonsillitis in earlier years.

Most people with calculi of the tonsils have no associated symptoms. In that case nothing need be done, except perhaps for brushing or scraping them out, as your daughter does. Gargling, refraining from eating during the 30 minutes before falling asleep, and careful oral hygiene may help minimize their formation.

For some people, however, the calculi can be quite bothersome, causing a constant foreign-body sensation, a chronic low-grade sore throat, recurrent episodes of tonsillitis persisting beyond childhood, or chronic bad breath.

Surgical treatment is almost never necessary for this condition, but when needed, treatment consists of either removing the tonsils or removing the calculi. Troublesome large calculi that are not easily dislodged may need an ear, nose, and throat doctor to remove them.

Not too long ago, tonsils were routinely removed for the sole crime of being swollen and inflamed. We didn’t understand, then, that the tonsils purposely accept the infections to prevent the organisms from traveling deeper, and to show the invaders to the developing immune system to train it for the future. The tonsils are selfless protectors. As a child becomes an adult, the tonsils usually begin to shrink; the watchful guardians of childhood are no longer much-needed.

Tonsils are a bit like parents: looming large early in life, diminishing over time, ever-protecting, ever-teaching, but sometimes with rough or hard spots when we let things build up ;^)

Did you find this article helpful? Do you still need more information? Let us know below.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

  1. JR

    I had these a couple years ago and the oddest thing was these were only triggered to develop when I had anything with lemon real lemon juice in it. I was a huge consumer of water with lemon juice in it–all the stars were doing it :o. I learned what amount I could have.

    So after a couple years of really good control and only a couple stones I was on vacation and got a sinus infection. Luckily in the Caribbean they sell over the counter amoxicillin. I took it and boom the stones never returned. And I’m back to my daily water with lemon. I’m NOT suggesting you self medicate without seeing a doctor but I know when I need penicillin and take maybe once every few years.

    Hopefully this helps others.

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  2. ReynoldMike

    Tonsilloliths are nothing but tonsil stones. Tonsilloliths may cause symptoms include a metallic taste, sudden coughing, throat closing or tightening and choking. Use natural treatments from Diane’s Puttman’s book “Banish Tonsil Stones” for your tonsil.

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  3. triveni

    hi.. i found yellowish particle in the throat coming and i was getting fever frm past 5months… i consulted Dr thy told infection thts y… recently got to know it is tonsil stones.. is there permanent cure for keratosis tonsils.. Dr has adviced for surgery so please suggest me wt to do…

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  4. Anonymous

    I’ve lived with this condition for over One year, In this period have learned that certain variables consist in lifestyle choices that are mitigating factors when attempting to diminish the presence of persistant discomfort. Which include, but not limited to diet, health, hygene, and age, as mentioned. As well as, in personal experience smoking or inhaling of tabacco products (cigarettes). However the conclusion drawn in instance is regardless of attempts to diminish symptom, the underlying condition will prevail. Therefore I continue to suffer. My request to the Web being. “Is there a diagram available for public viewing via internet containing in-depth illustrations of a healthy vs affected Tonsil, and the interacate workings there-in?” Highest Regards –

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  5. Tonsil rinser

    Hello people, there’s absolutely no need to wait for the tonsil stones to grow to get them out. If so you will get bad breath. Instead just go to any pharmacy and get the “waterpick waterfloser” for $70 and rinse out the tonsil cavities with the general tool pick at a medium pressure every morning before brushing your teeth. You can repeat this method everyday and the foul build up won’t stand a chance! This is an easy and effective method. Hope this will help you all!

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  6. apoorva

    My 3 year old son had tonsil stones…with fever…i dislodged it my finger…but still he continues to have fever… What may be the reason.. He does not have cough or cold but I’m worried if its swine flu… Please advice

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  7. Desiree

    Your description was much more thorough then any others, it even explained why, when I was a teenager, I first noticed these tonsil stones, and exactly why this happened. Now I feel much more relieved. I am completely convinced that I have no need for concern and plan to following the reasonable suggestions. I’m glad I found this site first. Thanks so much.

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  8. Cindy

    Thank you for this post site. As a child, I constantly suffered with tonsillitis twice a year for many years. Some were so severe that they required a doctor or hospital visit. The treatment, I remember, consisted of “painting my throat” with some kind of chocolate concoction, a penicillin shot and an oral prescription for “ice cream”. I was told to eat lots of it. I have not experienced the tonsillitis for many years, but the bad breathe has materialized and increased to the point where it is constant all the time. My PCP, ENT and others have not been helpful at all. They feel it is a mild problem and will soon go away, just drink MORE water and gargle. I too have removed little whitish hard substances from my throat and have constant ear ache, some days worse that others. This problem has me to the point of desperation and mild depression. Simply because I refrain from talking at times when I need to, due to the reaction of the people that I am talking to. Their facial responses and gestures, which assure me that they are smelling an unpleasant odor, is not very comfortable for me. It’s embarrassing and hurts. I am in my late sixties, and feel that a tonsillectomy would be too devastating at this age. Other than becoming a hermit, living in a bottle andor tolerating the offensive gestures, I just don’t know what to do. This is a real and serious problem. Thanks for listening. Cindy

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    • Anonymous

      It certainly does sound like you have tonsil stones. If you can do so without harming yourself, look up how to remove tonsil stones on the Internet. Or maybe go to a dentist to see what they can do. Please don’t let this condition go untreated if it is affecting you so severely. Best wishes

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      • There are several great treatments used by other folks mentioned in the comments on this article. My favorite is using coconut oil to lubricate the throat so the stones slip out. The method is called “oil pulling”, but is very simple — place about 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil in your mouth and swish it around for to to 20 minutes. Some times as little as five minutes will do the trick. When you’re done, spit the coconut oil into a disposable container (paper cups work well) and throw it away in the trash (not down the drain). You can do this a few times a day. It may take a week or so to see results. If it doesn’t work you haven’t lost much as it’s inexpensive and otherwise a healthy behavior.

        If you give this a try, please let us know how it works for you.

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    • Jan G.

      Hi Cindy, I had the same problem for years and years and what works for me (and not trying to sound like an advertisement) are Thera-breath products. Walmart sells them as well as the major drug stores. The toothpaste and oral rinse are the most helpful as well as lozenges that simply neutralize the anaerobic bacteria in your mouth that is the major cause of the odor. I’m also trying out a less pricy method of using a 50/50 mix of hydrogen peroxide and water to gargle with. Some people just have more of this bacteria in their mouths so this product adds oxygen to reduce their numbers. Best always…

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  9. Chantal

    Hello my friends!! I had tonsil stones for about a year and a half now I had really bad breath — it was so embarrassing. I just got my tonsils out, but I found a remedy that worked for me before I got them out! I had no bad breath! Go to your local natural store and buy myrhh tincture or order online and also coconut oil. I used a tablespoon of coconut oil and 5 drops of myrhh and I used the oil pull method for twenty minutes!! This is the only thing that took away my bad breath!!! I’m happy to help you. Don’t hesitate to try this.

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    • alice downin

      I am 13 i have had tonsil stones 2 and a half years ive been in agony since i first started they say im very young to have the operation and it’s quite a long one i would be very grateful if u replied about all your experience with doctors and having your tonsils out i would love to know because im just taking more and more time of school and for what its not gettig better thanks alice

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  10. laura chhan

    Thank you so so so much. I learned so much from this article. My right tonsil is swollen twice its size–and I already have large tonsils! I checked my tonsils and didn’t see any stones on the surface but I noticed a “hole” in my tonsil and inserted a q tip in it and soooo many stones kept coming out of it. Once I thought it was all gone, I’d rinse with salt water and more came out.

    I feel sorry for who ever smelled my breath! It smelled horrible. On top of that, it was bleeding and could tell it had bled inside this hole before. This whole time I thought it was pus and was afraid to scrape it off. Sure glad its safe to ’cause it always feel so much better when I do.

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  11. louise

    I’ve suffered 2 years with tonsil stones. The sore throat I can deal with, the bad breath I can’t. I was once very sociable to becoming house bound. Tried EVERYTHING to get rid of them. booked in to have them removed next month. I realy do feel for you all. Scared though. lol

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  12. Brooke

    I’m 31 and have had tonsil stones for 12 years . not getting any smaller. Its really bad! There is so much And blood just pores out, I don’t know what to do??? Please help

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  13. Charity

    Great article! Glad to know what they are called. I have had mine for as long as I can remember. One day the left tonsil got swollen, went to hospital and was given antibiotics. They didn’t work. Went back to the hospital and was given a second round of antibiotics. Nothing changed. I was very frustrated. Sat down with a mirror and a torch and tried to figure out what the white thing was. I took a toothpick to “poke” at it and it moved! I removed it and the relief was instantaneous. I don’t get other throat problems so anytime I see the stone, I just remove it and life moves on.

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  14. Ray Bazuaye

    I have removed several of these disgusting tonsil stone from deep inside my throat, but now I think I can’t get to it any more because they have gone deeper inside. It’s really disturbing me because I have the feeling of a foreign body in my throat all day and now it’s causing asore throat. Please, I need exact quick step to eradicating them. Thank you!

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    • Two of our readers have suggested natural, inexpensive remedies that have worked for them.

      1) Oil pulling — This is a very simple practice that’s been used historically and claims a variety of health benefits. Our reader claims that swishing coconut oil in the mouth for several minutes lubricates the tonsils and causes the tonsil stones to slip out on their own.

      2) Vinegar “tea” — Add one tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar in approximately 200ml water and drink once a day to treat infections of the mouth and throat. Our reader says this remedy caused the tonsil stones to disappear.

      You may have to repeat daily several days before you see a result. Either way, the treatments are easy.

      If you try either, please let us know the results.

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      • Iowan

        I drink 1/2 cup warm water daily with 1 T organic apple cider vinegar and 1 T honey – and I have constantly recurring tonsil stones.

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  15. chrissy

    I think mine are from dead cells, mucus, bacteria as the article says. As I was using a tongue scraper to clean my tongue tonsil stones started coming out the crevices. Ugh. Gross.

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    • Summer68

      Hi Chrissy,

      Tonsil stones is an awful condition. I’ve suffered with them for over 30 years with some doctors not even recognizing it. By chance I heard a broadcast on the radio approx. 4 months ago where the caller recommended a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar in approx. 200ml water to treat infections of the mouth and throat. I started to use this treatment and can truly give thanks that they have gone.

      My breath is no longer putrid and no more stones. I continue to take the apple cider daily and I have not cut anything from my diet. I’ve also noticed other benefits like better sleeping at night, and the condition and appearance of my skin.

      I take the apple cider at about 6pm. Please try this but please remember you must dilute it before taking. I am so happy I just want to share it with everyone who suffers with this condition.

      Summer68

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      • Dexter

        Summer68,

        Could you provide any more details on how you take the apple cider vinegar – can you just gulp the whole diluted drink down? Do you drink it slowly or swish it? Thanks for the remedy!

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  16. marie

    Thanks for the article. I’m so glad for the reassurance that I won’t need surgury because of my tonsil stones.

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  17. lisha

    I understand this, but my tonsils have small to medium holes in them. Its only my right tonsil and I’m not sure if it can spread to the other tonsil. My other one now has line like scratches on it. I don’t know how to explain it, but it bothers me and I’ve had it for quite some time now. I will be going to get it checked out, but I would like to learn more because if I think some thing is wrong with me or my body I have a habit of searching and thinking of the worst and over educate. Oh and by the way, I am a 13 year old female.

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  18. Mathew Jackson

    Extremely helpful. I have bad teeth an suffer often tonsillitis. I have a huge stone lodged at back of my throat. It’s the size of a 2p english coin. I can’t dislodge it.

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    • Have you tried “oil pulling” as suggested by another reader? You put a very small amount coconut oil into your mouth and swish it around for up to 20 minutes. I know, this sounds like a long time, but the oil may work as a lubricant and make it easier to dislodge the stone. It’s non-toxic, non-invasive and several readers have reported that it worked for them. Good luck and please let us know if it helps.

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  19. JD

    I’ve successfully treated them with a combination of diet change and using q-tip to remove what is present. For diet, I cut out all sugar and sweets for a month. I find coffee to be like fertilizer for my tonsil stones so I no longer drink coffee of any kind. I can eat sweets after the stones are gone. I eat raw onion which for some reason helps – perhaps has some beneficial relationship to the tonsils. I also drink sage tea or take sage tincture. I feel this a natural way of healing my body.

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    • I think you’re onto something. Has anyone else experimented with changing the diet to reduce tonsil stones? Are there any foods you think make it worse (like onions for the commenter above). I wonder if different people have different triggers or perhaps the combination of deep crevices and a high sugar, high coffee diet are the perfect tonsil stone storm?

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      • lisa

        Dairy always make mine worse. When I cut out dairy, they often go away. I have also heard peppermint works .

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      • SGRL

        I had my tonsils out 2 months ago for this very reason and I thought that I was cured from it…NOT, I just found 3 tonsil stones in a crevis!!! I am devastated :(

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        • SG

          Oh no!! I am getting my removed for the same reason, how are you dealing with the tonsil stones now??

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      • Nicole

        When I eat anything with bread it doesnt effect me just yet, but when I wake up in the morning it looks like its been building up overnight.

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  20. Caleb

    Thanks so much! It is an embarrassing subject for some and can be difficult to bring up. This post has been invaluable thanks doc. Now that I am better informed I know the questions I need to ask!

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  21. jenny

    Before I used cotton buds but it makes me vomit because it touches my tonsil. Then my daughter suggested to use toothpick which you only prick or get the tonsil stone without touching your tonsil. It is very easy to remove, then once removed gargle with alcohol free mouthwash.

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  22. Shell

    I suffered with this for two years. I finally got a tonsillectomy and it was worth it. The healing process was painful. I lost 10 pounds that month as I could not eat. I developed oral thrush a few days post surgery. Talking was painful, so I walked with a dry erase board. It has been three years since this and I am so grateful that my ENT recommended surgery. I haven’t had any symptoms since. I hope this helps others make up their mind.
    Shell

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    • Michael J.

      You should have tried the little tool on Amazon.com, mentioned below!

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    • Giraff59

      I too am deciding whether I want to have a tonsillectomy for this. Can I ask your age you were when you got it done?
      I love your dry erase board idea!
      Thanks!

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      • Kasey

        I was about 20 when I had my tonsils removed for this reason. I didn’t know about others suffering from this at the time. I picked the stones out starting from a very early age until they were just too bothersome to keep dealing with. I’m happy I got my tonsils removed.

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  23. Jacob Christiansen

    I’ve suffered for years – tried everything – the only thing that I’ve found that truly works is being proactive with removal. If you stay on it, your tonsils will become less swollen, which for me, resulted in the stones leaving completely for many months at a time (I will get them back and repeat).

    The best method for removal I have found is a little extraction tool with a light at the end that I found on Amazon. You can find it if you go there and search “tonsil stones”. Much better than anything else I have tried including cotton swabs and a flashlight, gargling, poking with your fingers, etc. It’s a clever/convenient little design for this purpose and well worth it!

    Hope this info helps you as it has helped me!

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    • Michael J.

      Thank you so much! This was BY FAR the best remedy!

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  24. Sydney

    Oh my gosh I just started getting these about a year or so ago after a really bad case of tonsillitis. My biggest issue is that I have such a bad gag reflex that I have never been able to extract them. I’ve tried everything but I just gag so badly every single time. So I just have to wait for them to come out on their own. My ENT told me the only way to get rid of them is get a tonsillectomy…but I’m very nervous about that since I heard the healing process is very extensive.

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  25. Gail Branch

    My granddaughter had her tonsils removed at 3. Sometimes her breathe is horrible. She is 13. Could she still be getting tonsil stones? Do the tonsils grow back?

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  26. Angie

    My daughter is 15 last year she had her tonsils removed but not the adenoids. Lately she’s been complaining of pain on one side of her neck on inside of her throat where they removed get tonsils so I looked and on the inside of her neck on the right side where the tonsil was removed she has a gaping hole it’s swollen and very painful. She says when she breathes she feels air going thru it. the doc put her on antibiotic but it doesn’t seem to be helping. Any suggestions what this could be? Thanks

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  27. Lunarblaze12

    I’m 17 and I’ve had these for a while now. I only recently found out what they were, about a year ago. My ENT doctor prescribed me some antibacterial medicine and the pill worked great both times, and he diagnosed me with tonsil stones. He’s scraped one out before, even, and it looked just like you described.
    The thing is, I’m getting surgery in 2 days, a tonsillectomy. I have terrible breath and sometimes an itchy feeling in my throat. And I knew it wasn’t my teeth; I brush very well and my ENT said my teeth were fine.
    I’m just really worried about this surgery. I know that getting a tonsillectomy is increasingly dangerous the older you get, and I hate the thought of the pain and of being put under. But the ENT said there’s nothing else to do, though he admitted that it might not completely get rid of my bad breath.
    I really hope it does….. And that I don’t get sick more often without my tonsils, as they are a defense against bacteria, viruses, and other harmful things.
    This is also my first surgery, so there’s that too…. And the fact I hate medicine and I’m going to have to take some to dull the pain after surgery.
    Well, wish me luck that I don’t die, that my bad breath goes away, and that it doesn’t make me get sick more often!

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    • Eva

      Lunarblaze, how did it go?

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    • susan

      you are 17 not 70. i am sure your doctor knows how to preform this simple procedure, it’s not heart surgery. i hate to think how you will act if something serious happens. take a painkiller, buy some mouthwash, and grow up.

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      • jen

        You’re right. She’s 17 not 70, nor does she have the life experience to deal with things beyond her scope of understanding. So instead of harshly telling her to grow up, I’m telling you to have compassion and possibly act your age.

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        • melanie

          right on!

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      • R Lynn

        What a rude person you are! All these comments are beneficial and relatable to readers then there’s always the ONE! PEOPLE LIKE YOU that choose to be disrespectful & mean aggravate me to my CORE! MAY YOU EAT YOUR WORDS ONE DAY & may they turn into the most rotten tonsil stones that ever existed on a human. Lol that thought just made me laugh. Don’t disrespect others like that no matter what their age is!

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  28. Lara

    I started getting tonsil stones in November of 2013 and was put on Penicillin on February of this year and I still have these lumps today… I started removing them myself last night and I am now left with big-ish holes, is this normal for tonsil stones? Also, I am left with one large stone that I think is responsible for ny constant sore throat… how long should I leave it before consulting a doctor? :(

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  29. This topic is important to so many people. You’ve asked great follow-up questions. Dr. Greene would love to answer them all, but he can’t. To try to answer the one that are most important to the most people, we’ve added a new feature — Ask Dr. Greene!

    If you have a question, just go to http://www.drgreene.com/askdrgreene/ and submit your question.

    Dr. Greene will answer one question a day and he’s going to let our readers decide which question they would most like to see answered determined by the number of votes each question receives. That means, you have a better chance of getting your question answered if you invite your friends to vote.

    Check it out — http://www.drgreene.com/askdrgreene/ — and let us know what you think.

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  30. Steph

    Hi. Thanks for your insight on this problem. I have read several articles which mention that tonsil typically reduce in size and issues reduce with age. Growing up I had frequent tonsils infections, typically where strep was found. I am almost 40 years old, and my tonsils are still quite large, and unfortunately, my tonsils do have crevises in them now, and I have now been getting tonsils stones consistently for the past few years in both tonsils. The stones are typically not painful, no sore throat, just annoying because it seems to be constant. My oral hygene is very good. Yesterday I worke up with my ear and tonsil quite sore on one side, and a day later, more stone pieces than usual came out of that tonsil. It is still a bit sore, and I’m wondering if there may be more in the tonsil, but also concerned about doing any potential damange. I am just wondering a couple of things.

    1) Is there any risk of putting pressure on the tonsils to extract these (e.g., can it push them back deeper and cause worse infection, or anything like that?). Do you need to be cautious about how much pressure to apply to the tonsils? Is this an effection that can spread elsewhere (e.g., lymph nodes/other)?

    2) Is there a scan or anything that can be done to check the tonsils for these stones or to check their overall health, or see if there is any concern?

    3) I really don’t want to remove my tonsils as I’ve been avoiding that for years. I saw mention that you can have laser procedure to smooth/close the crevises in the tonsils. How serious is this procedure and the recovery? Is it painful? And how effective?

    Thanks!

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  31. see mun Teh

    Hi, I really have Symptoms of Tonsilitisas, especially always spit out yellow stones and bad breathe , but I don’t see yellow stones around tonsil by using torch to check myself. I really don’t know where they hide. What should I do now? Thanks.

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  32. Siobhan

    I am 20 years old and have been dealing with tonsil stones for about 2 and a half years now.

    The first one I got was rather big, about 1cm. It was on my right side. A week later I got my second one, similar in size, on my left side.

    Since then I have had a few more come, most of them have been on my right side and I haven’t had one on my left side in a long time now.

    Over the past year or so I have had tonsil infections (always worse on the right side) about 5 times… And waiting them out has never helped. I would always wait until I couldn’t even swallow before going to the doctor. At that point I would end up on antibiotics and the pain would go away.

    Recently I got sick with bronchitis and was able to get better within a few days… Only to come down with a cold the very next day.

    Before getting sick with bronchitis I had a sore throat, it lasted throughout my bronchitis, throughout my cold, and even stayed after I was cleared up.

    Throughout that spurt of sickness I went to a walk in clinic 3 times (Twice complaining about my sore throats, concerned that it was staying for a long time). On the third visit my throat was swabbed for strep, and it came back negative. I even mentioned to the doctor that I knew it wasn’t strep and that leaving it alone would not solve the issue.

    Last night I was struck again with the tonsil stones, only in my left tonsil. I pushed them out, and everything else stuck inside. They were very tiny, and some weren’t even formed entirely. They were all a grayish brownish color which I have never seen before. Also inside was yellow and white mucus as well as blood. Yuck.

    I went and saw my family doctor today (she works at the walk in clinic that I go to) and she prescribed me antibiotics. Finally, relief. My tonsils are and have been infected once again. She also said they are very active. I have a follow up visit with her next week once the infection clears up. I’ve also noticed that above my tonsils, beside my uvula I have something hard under my skin, little bumps that feel like tonsil stones. Although I’m not sure they should be up there. I mentioned it to her and she is going to take a look next week.

    I know cancer and tonsil stones are in no way related, but the mucus and blood coming out of my tonsils is scaring me into believing I may have cancer as well.

    Most doctors won’t remove tonsils at my age, but I will continue to get tonsil infections, and eventually won’t notice improvement through antibiotics.

    What are the pro’s and con’s of having my tonsils removed in my situation?

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  33. Rachel Grantham

    This is the first helpful thing I’ve seen for this. I’ve had these stones come up every so often and it goes in spells. It feels great just knowing what it is. The thing is it’s not consistent enough to really determine if I should do something about it.

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  34. PJGU

    I have dealt with this for years off and on. I am fascinated to see how common it seems to be. I thought I was an oddity to get these as an adult. Mine tend to be in one side for a while, then a year later, they will suddenly decide they like the other side. Also oddly, I can go months with never getting them at all, then they will recur out of the blue for no reason that I can yet pin down. I noticed today that I have had a huge recurrence, and my throat is very sore with blisters on the affected tonsil. I cannot tell which came first in this case. Am I sick and the inflammation puffed up the tonsil and caused inflammation to trap food particles again….or did the tonsil stone cause the symptoms?

    I would like to know where one gets a “scraper”. I have used many home made tools over the years, from an oversized bobby pin stretched open ( the knobby ends are good for not injuring the tonsils), to the flat and slightly rounded ends of a dental mirror to press the tonsil. My tips are to always sterilize your tool with alcohol before and after working on the stones, never poke or dig too far in the tonsil, and gargle with lister one or a tea tree oil/peroxide rinse for a minute after poking around. I read one time that the tonsils sit right on the blood super highway that runs directly to the brain (thus the reason for the dangers of tonsillectomy surgery). I have always been mindful of that and try not to get an infection in that area from my prodding and to never cause it to bleed if at all possible.

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  35. Marissa

    Hello! First of all I want to thank you so much for the article! This is awesome and superb information for those of us suffering from this annoying ailment. My issue started about a year ago and I have seen about 2 ENTs, A gastroenterologist and my family practitioners numerous times this year and I still cannot find an answer to the annoying itchy feeling in the back of my throat. The ENT did say that I have crevices in my tonsils and I have been suffering from tonsil stones for awhile now but I did not know they were. However things have gotten worse because now I am reduced to eating foods that will not accumulate inside of the crevices which in turn end up in these stones…my problem is that before I did not notice them but now they bother me so much because they seem to be forming in an area that feels close to the upper part of my tonsil that feels connected to my inner ear. When I have the stones I get this horrible itchy sensation and it unbearable and I can only find relief when the stones are out but it takes forever for the stones to come out because the pocket is too deep and I really suffer for days. I also feel like I can hear crickets on that side of my ear as I feel this things are pushing up…it has come to the point where I use a Qtip to relief the itch in my ears and I kid you not, the stones come out with the pressure of the Qtip sometimes…are they that far into my tonsil? It seems like it. Now I can no longer eat foods like breads, rice or anything that could get lodged back there because it will form a stone and I will start that cycle all over again. My ENT doesn’t seem to think it is too serious to have tonsils removed because I do not get fevers or infections just this horrible itchy sensation. I also have post nasal drip and a combination of acid reflux and we are tackling both and I will not lie my symptoms go away when I stop eating the breads, the flours, the rices, but mainly the wheat, bread starches…etc…I am trying to figure out on whether I need to get my tonsils removed, but I’d rather find a doctor that is willing to minimize the crevices through surgery, I read about certain surgeries to do that but there seems to be not many ENTS interested in doing this at all. My only hope is that by changing my diet permanently the hole might get smaller and the stones will go back to becoming irregular when I eat regular foods. The other side effect that bothers me is the feeling that my ears are stuffed, it takes several minutes but then again I also have sinus issues so I got a combination of everything and I feel like there is no ending this…after a year, it depresses me and I just want a doctor that can help me. That is all I want, and they all seem to just blow me off. I do not know what to do anymore just to suffer in pain. Thank you anyway for the helpful tips and God willing I will survive this and one day look back and realize that it wasn’t as bad as I think it is…because right now it is a nightmare!

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  36. Donna Melton

    Thank you so much for this article and thank you to all the folks who have posted. I found it after coughing up another large gray stinky pebble. I’m 58. I am very large. I have lots of problems with allergies – having a flare now. My tonsils are huge. I tried to get my primary care doc to set me up for removal years ago after another bout of tonsillitis (never had it until I was 18). I never knew this things I hate had a real purpose. After reading the comments I’ve learned not to be ashamed (thought this was a weight issue) or embarrassed and that it is fixable. I’m out of work but between coughing up more of these and having feeling like swimmer’s ear for months I realized that despite having no insurance I need to have this looked at and get the stones removed as well as drastically improving my oral hygiene. Thank again Dr. Greene as well as folks who shared your own stories.

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    • k

      I would go to the dentist and ask for the prescription mouthwash for halitosis (chronic bad breath) it has a very mild amount of antibiotic that will kill any of the stuff growing in your throat, and help with the bad breath of course. when I’m using it consistently, my tonsil stones and sick symptoms decrease drastically. Plus as a bonus your mouth feels cleaner all day long.

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  37. pooja joshi

    dear doctor,
    my kids, a son 8yrs old n a daughter 3 1/2 yrs old,r very prone to throat infections..they get sore throat in every three mnths. wht precautions shld i take to prevent this recurrence….they get swollen tonsils n this condition of tonsil pearls also..it leads to high grade fever..i m a bit worried…my doc says it is due to low immunity…is that so…kindly guide! thanks!

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  38. Carli Anderson

    I’ve always had a problem with low grade sore throats, but I’d only recently been noticing the stones in my throat. I’ve been coughing them up more and more lately and it leaves me a little concerned.
    Also it makes eating popcorn annoying because I end up having the little kernel shells stuck and scratching up my throat.

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  39. Savanna

    I have tonsil stones in both tonsils. I have a hard time swallowing and can constantly feel then. They are at a point where I can no longer remove them. My neck and ears are constantly sore and my tonsils keep getting bigger. I tried everything and nothing seems to work. Is removing my tonsils realistic?

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    • Alan Greene

      Savanna, removing the tonsils may happen too often, but sometimes removing troublesome tonsils is the best answer. It’s worth considering. Difficulty swallowing (and breathing while asleep) can be very good reasons to get this done.

      An Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon (ENT) would be the person to do the job. I’m a fan of getting evaluated and asking for the pros and cons of both courses of action.

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  40. Guest

    Thank you so much for this post. Like many who have posted here, I too have been experiencing problems with halitosis. For over a decade, I have been going to dental hygenist, dentists and even seeing a specialist at a dental school. Suffice to say my teeth are probably cleaner than most and the periodental pockets which were thought to be the root of the cause have all but dissapeared.
    The problem still remained. Foul smelling breath! During this time I became less outgoing, more introverted. When I spoke I could see people recoil (but all were too polite to say what I knew). I spoke less, became depressed because I was unable to communicate effectively face to face. The psycological impact was definetly the hardest thing to deal with. Stagnated in the same job (although quailified and experienced enough to be doing more), no close friends (too self concious to relax and be around folks) and no intimate parteners.
    After stumbling upon this article perchance and reading tips on how to remove tosil stones, I had a go that same day. To my suprise, there were two large (0.8 and 1.0cm long) white / yellowish stones on the right hand side of my tonsil. Once removed using a teaspoon, I was curious to find what they smelled like. My word!! At that moment I understood why folks kept away. The next day I decided to test the waters at work by standing closer to people when I spoke and to my suprise no one backed off!
    I have mixed feelings at the moment, one of elation that I may finally have found what the problem is and how to deal with it and one of anger. During this time none of the professionals I paid good money to see mentioned the possibility that this may be the problem. Hell, 6 months prior to this, I called my dentist and broke down but was told there is more to life.
    Anyway I am probably venting in the wrong place. I have made and appointment with my dentist. The purpose? To ask why such a simple examination was never performed.
    Thank you all and wish you well.

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    • Alan Greene

      I’m sorry for what you’ve been through, but very glad you posted. I hope your story helps many others.

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  41. Morgan Musel

    Thank you so much for writing this, someone sited it on yahoo. I looked it up because it freaked me out that I routinely spat out little white stones. I’m glad it’s nothing serious, I do have one question though. How am I supposed to get them out other than gagging them up like I usually do?

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    • Alan Greene

      Morgan, I’m a fan of using an irrigator to wash the tonsils and/or a scraper to gently scrape them to get small stones out or to keep new stones from forming or getting too large.

      Manual irrigators may be more comfortable and less irritating for washing than electric ones, because the electric irrigators sometimes use too much pressure. Having said that, I do love my WaterPik.

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      • gina

        is it harmful when thy are swallowed???
        I cant remove them myself what else can I do and is their any medications that I can use??

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  42. Nic

    I have had tonsil stones for a few months now. I have heard if you remove the stones promptly, the holes get smaller gradually and get back to normal. I found this true but then life caught up with me and I forgot to irrigate. Now one of my tonsils feels really full, I can see the stone in a crevice but it just won’t come out. It’s not terribly painful but I do feel something in the back of my throat. A few months ago when I went to the doctor, he used a metal tool and stretched, poked, and prodded the holes to get stuff out. Now I feel like I have little caves in my tonsils. I would rather not have them removed but I’m at a loss for what to do. I’ve tried pushing them out with my fingers but it hasn’t worked. Suggestions? Help? If I figure out how to irrigate this bugger out, is it still possible that this problem can be resolved without surgery?

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    • Alan Greene

      Nic, the holes do usually get smaller gradually over time once the stones are out, and promptly removing any new stones can help keep the openings smaller. Even with ‘little caves’ in the tonsils there is hope for this getting better without surgery.

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  43. Chrystal @ Happy Mothering

    Great article. I had terrible tonsil stones and constant tonsillitis until I finally broke down and had my tonsils removed when I was 28. It was not a fun experience, but I don’t get sick nearly as often now.

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    • Dr. Alan Greene

      Thanks! And I’m loving your posts this week over on the Perspectives blog here.

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      • Chrystal @ Happy Mothering

        Absolutely. It was an honor to write a series for your guest blog!

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  44. Hestia Thomas

    Thank you. A very well written article

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  45. Alan Greene

    Jay, your description – including the color, shape, hardness, and smell – would fit with tonsil stones. Tonsil stones aren’t a reason to worry, but are a reason to make taking care of your mouth a priority.

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  46. Alan Greene

    :) Some tonsils are above average.

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  47. RJ

    So what happened at the appointment? Curious.

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