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Do Tonsil Stones Go Away? Treatment & Prevention

Do Tonsil Stones Go Away
Tonsil stones often go away on their own. If they bother you, the only way to get rid of them is through surgical removal or tonsillectomy

Tonsil stones, also known as tonsilloliths, often go away on their own. If they are causing pain, bothering you, or keep coming back, the only way to get rid of them is through surgical removal or tonsillectomy.

Your doctor may also recommend a laser procedure called cryptolysis to scar your tonsils and prevent tonsil stones from recurring.

Can you remove tonsil stones at home?

Home remedies can help remove smaller tonsil stones:

  • Gargling: Vigorous gargling with warm saline water can help dislodge the stones. It can also help relieve throat pain, remove bacteria, and help eliminate bad breath.
  • Coughing: There are anecdotal reports of people being able to dislodge their tonsil stones with strong coughing.
  • Pushing: You may be able to gently loosen the stone by pushing on the tonsil behind the stone.

There are no medications that can dissolve tonsil stones. Antibiotics only help if there is a bacterial infection of the tonsils.

What causes tonsil stones?

Bacteria and saliva that accumulate in the crevices (tonsillar crypts) of your tonsils can get trapped and harden over time, leading to tonsil stones.

People who have more crevices are more likely to develop tonsil stones, and people who have recurrent tonsil infections are more likely to develop such crevices.

What are the signs and symptoms of tonsil stones?

Small tonsil stones often do not cause symptoms and may only be discovered by looking at your tonsils or looking at mouth X-rays.

When symptoms occur, they may include:

  • Bad breath
  • Sore or painful throat
  • Tonsil swelling
  • Cough (due to irritation caused by the stone)
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Ear pain

Tonsil stones are common and rarely cause life-threatening complications. Problems usually occur only with larger stones, which need to be removed via surgery.

How are tonsil stones diagnosed?

Complaints of throat pain and bad breath are often enough to confirm a diagnosis of tonsil stones. Sometimes, your doctor or dentist may notice tonsil stones while examining your mouth and throat for some other problem.

Diagnosis involves physical examination of your mouth and throat, as well as an X-ray or a computed tomography scan if your doctor cannot see the stone clearly.

How can I prevent tonsil stones?

You can prevent tonsil stones with the following measures:

  • Brush your teeth regularly, including the back and sides of your tongue
  • Floss regularly
  • Gargle with saltwater, preferably warm salt water, after every meal
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Quit smoking
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