Tonsils are paired glands that are located in the back of the throat. Your tonsils are filled with nooks and crannies where bacteria, viruses, and other materials, dead cells, food particles and mucus, can become trapped. When this happens, the debris can become concentrated in white formations that occur in the pockets, known as tonsil stones (Tonsilloliths).
Tonsilloliths are formed when this trapped debris hardens, or calcifies. This tends to happen most often in people who have chronic swelling (inflammation) in their tonsils or repeated bouts of tonsil infections (tonsillitis). Usually tonsil stones form in adults and at times teenagers.
Often tonsilloliths do not cause any symptoms are simply a visible white, grey or discolored lump adjacent to the tonsil. Other times, one will develop irritation and redness at the site, and sometimes have a sensation of a lump in the back of the throat. Other symptoms include chronic sore throat, repeated infections, bad breath, and difficulty swallowing.
One of the most common remedies is gargling with salt water, which can dislodge these tonsil stones in many cases. Waterpick type of devices can “power wash” the tonsil stones away. In situations where the tonsil stones are causing more severe discomfort or continue to recur, one should speak with an Otolaryngology-Ear Nose Throat specialist about whether a course of oral antibiotics or surgical removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) is indicated.
Opinions expressed here are those of myself, Dr. Daryl Colden. They are not intended as medical advice and cannot substitute for the advice of your personal physician.