Tonsil stones are also known as tonsilloliths. They develop as a result of bacteria and other substances becoming trapped in pockets of the tonsils. The bacteria turns white and hardens or calcifies, creating tonsil stones. Tonsil stones occur most often in people who have chronic inflammation in their tonsils or repeated bouts of tonsillitis. Most people who develop tonsil stones usually develop tonsil stones are small. However, other people may develop tonsil stones that are very large and solidified. This is much rarer.
Most people who develop small tonsil stones do not experience any significant symptoms. Even in people who develop large tonsil stones, they are often found incidentally on X-rays or CT scans. Other people who develop large tonsil stones may experience a number of different symptoms which can be unpleasant. The signs and symptoms of tonsil stones include:
· Sore throat. A sore throat may indicate a tonsil stone. However, if a tonsil stone and tonsillitis occur together, it can be difficult to identify whether the sore throat is caused by the infection or the tonsil stone. Either way, having a tonsil stone in general usually causes you to feel some degree of pain or discomfort in the area where it is located.
· Difficulty swallowing. Tonsil stones may cause you to have trouble swallowing. This may vary depending on the size or location of the tonsil stone.
· Bad breath. Bad breath is one of the main symptoms of tonsil stones. It is often accompanied by a tonsil infection.
· Tonsil swelling. When a person develops tonsil stones, bacteria accumulates and solidifies. If an infection arises, the tonsils can become inflamed which may cause the tonsil to swell or become larger.
· White debris. Tonsil stones often appear in the back of the throat as solid white lump. However, this is not always true. They may also hide in the pockets of the tonsils. It is in these cases where the tonsil stone may only be identifiable on a CT scan or MRI.
· Ear pain. Tonsil stones can develop anywhere in the tonsil. The ear and the tonsils share a nerve pathway. For this reason, having a tonsil stone may cause a person to feel pain in the ear. This can happen even if the tonsil stone does not actually come into contact with the ear.
Tonsil stones do not always require treatment, especially if they are small or are not causing discomfort. If treatment is needed, the options include antibiotics, gargling with salt water, or in some cases, surgical removal. Surgical removal is usually only required when the tonsil stones are very large.