Tonsil Stones

small tonsil stones on a finger

About those smelly tonsil stones and how to remove them and be rid of them for good

Tonsil stones are another thing that causes halitosis (bad breath). They are formally known as tonsilloliths. They are objects usually made of calcium that grow and develop over time in the crypts and crevasses of the tonsils. They are usually white with a yellow hue in color and some people describe them as white spots in the throat or white spots on the tonsils. Tonsil stones are common in adults and are rare for children and babies. There are few noticeable symptoms of tonsilloliths other than bad breath, but for most of us here at BreathMD that is enough of a reason to find out if we have them and get them out if we do.

What causes tonsil stones

So how do you get tonsil stones? What cause tonsilloliths? Those are very good questions but unfortunately the exact causes are unknown. While tonsils play an important role in trapping harmful bacteria from entering the rest of your body, they also tend to trap food, mucus, dead cells, and other particles. There is a generally accepted notion that tonsil stones are caused by the food, particles, and bacteria that are accumulated on and in the tonsils. These particles are broken down in time by saliva and digestive enzymes and most of what remains is the hard deposits of the particle (usually calcium). The softer parts are broken down and eventually are washed away.

There have also been studies that prove a correlation between patients who have tonsilloliths and patients who suffer from post-nasal drip, which is another cause of bad breath.

Side-effects of tonsil stones

There are various signs and symptoms of tonsil stones. Below is a list of the side-effects of them. Keep in mind that tonsil stones vary greatly in size and that a lot of these symptoms only manifest themselves with patients who suffer from large or rare giant tonsilloliths.

While the side-effects can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, they are rarely life threatening and there has not been any evidence that they negatively affect one's overall health.

How do you know if you have tonsil stones

tonsil stones are white spots on tonsils

If you suffer from the above mentioned symptoms of tonsilloliths you may have them. Keep in mind it is extremely rare to suffer from tonsil stones if you had a tonsillectomy and had your tonsils removed.

You can usually determine if you have tonsil stones through visual inspection. Grab a flashlight and face a mirror. Open your mouth in such a way that you have a clear view of your tonsils. Shine the light on the tonsils and inspect each of them thoroughly for any white spots or white objects on them. Also you may try taking a clean Q-tip and using that to pull back the flap of the tonsils to inspect the cryptic area in the tonsils. If you do not see any white spots or objects you should be good to go. If you do see white objects they might be tonsil stones, debris from a larger tonsil stone, or a tonsil stone in development.

Tonsils stones can also be detected through X-rays and CAT scans and they are often discovered accidentally through these methods.

How to remove tonsil stones

There are various methods used to treat and remove tonsil stones. They are often removed or dislodged unintentionally by coughing or even swallowing. The simplest method of the removal of tonsil stones is take a Q-Tip (people report a bent bobby pin works well) and to gently apply pressure to the white stone until it is dislodged. If that doesn't work try to apply pressure through different angles and try a back and forth motion. Also if it is hard to reach you might try taking another Q-tip and using that to pull back the flap or part of the tonsil so you have better access. Remember to be very gentle. Your tonsils are very fragile and they might bleed if handled recklessly. A little bleeding is common in removing tonsil stones but do your part and be gentle and take your time to minimize the bleeding and irritation done to your tonsils.

Removal of tonsil stones is also carried out effectively by using an oral irrigator. Ideally the best irrigation tool to use is an oral irrigator that is used to irrigate the lacerations left by the removal of wisdom teeth. Other oral irrigators may be used such as a WaterPik or the SinuPulse Irrigation System but be sure to use the lowest setting at first, and if you feel even the lowest setting would be too powerful on your tonsils, then don't do it. CAUTION: You may rupture or puncture your tonsil if the water stream is too strong. Be careful and smart. Take your time while irrigating and hopefully that will get rid of your tonsil stones.

If you have tried the above mentioned methods and they did not work, consider seeing a doctor. Doctors may remove tonsil stones by curettage, laser, or even surgery if necessary. If they are really bad and keep recurring, the doctor may suggest tonsillectomy (removal of the tonsils). The doctor will let you know what the best treatment for tonsil stones would be.

Should I get my tonsils removed?

Many people consider getting their tonsils removed if they suffer from recurring tonsil stones and bad breath. It is a hard decision to make and there are many things to consider personally and with your doctor before removing them. The recovery time from a tonsillectomy increases as the patient gets older and many doctors discourage it for adults, whereas many adult patients have had them removed and stated the recovery wasn't too hard and they are loving life after having them out. Research the topic heavily. If tonsil stones are the only reason you want them out first try removing the tonsil stones and applying the preventive measures in your life that are outlined in the next section. If you just can't get rid of the tonsil stones and if your tonsils are causing you to have tonsillitis and sickness regularly, it might be best just to rip them out yourself. Just kidding, get a doctor to do a tonsillectomy.

Prevention

While removing tonsil stones is possible, it is important to take measures that stop them from returning and recurring often. We believe that the stones are caused by particles that get trapped in the tonsils, so in order to prevent tonsil stones it is important to clean your tonsils regularly to keep them free of the particles that would eventually break down and cause the tonsilloliths to develop. Here is a list of methods you can apply to prevent tonsil stones.

Keep in mind you will probably not see immediate results. Doing these preventive measures will hinder the growth of future tonsil stones, but do little to remove the tonsil stones you currently have. Try to remove the tonsil stones you currently have and then carry out these preventive measures to try to keep new ones from forming. Overtime you should notice results, but don't give up after a couple of weeks. It might take months for you to see results.

Also do not neglect other oral health care while trying to get rid of tonsil stones. Read our article on How To Get Rid of Bad Breath for an overview of a basic oral care regimen that will help you have fresh breath.

If you take the protective measures above, hopefully you will be rid of tonsil stones for good and eliminate tonsil stones from your life!

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Comments (177)
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Support

I'm starting a tonsil stone support group.

by David on Jul 25, 2016 | 8:02 PM

For about a week now my throat has been killin. Sooooo bad. Been thinking it was just sore from a chip or something scratching it,or maybe just burned it eating something too hot. You know how it is when you see that it's steaming but you just can't wait haha. Anyway,then I realized it was only on one side of my throat. Which I found so strange. Took a flash light and my throat looks fine,just sore on one side. Then I gagged from having my finger in my mouth and see something white. I freak out,I mean what is that?! Tried poking at it and my finger nail actually caused it to bleed so I just left it alone. Fed up with my sore throat I called my mom the next day and she tells me that she doesn't know exactly what it is,but that she gets them too and that she just scrapes it out. So back to the bathroom I go. I took a Qtip and poked at it again,and when something came out I swear to you I almost cried. My poor husband had to come hold the light for me. Not going to lie,a good bit of stuff came out. It was horrific. Looked up on YouTube how you can remove them at home and found out I was actually doing it the right way which was nice. I had to hold back the flap which made it quite difficult,but after I got out what was hopefully all of it I gargled with salt water because my throat is still very sore. It's really surprising that so many people have this and yet so many people know nothing about it. Thanks to everyone for sharing,I feel much better now and hope that I helped someone as well.

by Sully on Jul 25, 2016 | 1:57 AM

will having tonsil stones make

Your ears feel like fluid is leakin out of em? Every morning as I wake up or shortly after my ears will feel like they open up or pop then dark yellow sometimes brown fluid will be on the qtip I used to clean my ear. I have post nasal as well cuz I'm a smoker. I'm 23 years old female. But I've noticed these tonsil stones almost 6 years ago. They're not consistent but every so often ones come out. Ive never picked them out myself. Should I pick them out if they're there? I practice good oral hygiene as well.

by deb on Jul 20, 2016 | 10:41 PM

These things are terrible

I am 12 and has been sick for 2 days, I thought I had an ear infection until I looked in the mirror at my tonsils, I defiantly have the stones but my tonsils also seem to look like they are infected any advice? Thank you!

by Lex on Jul 19, 2016 | 6:21 PM

I have been getting these infrequently since I was a child. It stopped once I started getting older, but now for the past year or 2 I've been occasionally getting them again. Sometimes I notice a bad breath/smell coming from the back of my throat where the tonsils are and I'm not sure if it's something other people would notice if they got close to me, but I still worry about it. Today I noticed I had one of these little tonsil stones (it got stuck in the back of my throat for a while, before it came loose and came out) and so I decided to try to gently clean my tonsils by gargling alcohol free mouthwash, and by dipping the end of a Q-tip into mouthwash and gently cleaning. I managed to remove another small tonsil stone, but immediately afterward, the smell and taste in the back of my throat became extremely bad, to the point where I taste it every time I swallow. Essentially I've made it worse somehow and gargling or even having something to drink to mask the taste doesn't seem to help.
I'm not quite sure what to do because just leaving the bad breath is undesirable (whether or not its bad enough for anyone else to notice) but doing something about it seems to make it worse.

by M on Jul 13, 2016 | 12:43 AM

hate these things

I'm 16 and I have been getting these for a long time. Every time I think they are gone they come back full force. I usually dig them out of the crevices of my tonsils with a bobby pin. I constantly get a bad taste in my mouth and my breath gets so bad that someone had actually told me it smelled. I've tried using mouthwash and brushing my teeth to get rid of the smell and taste. But the relief is only temporary the same goes for mints and gum. Today one of my tonsils hurt so bad that when I tried to use the bobby pin nothing came out.(WARNING KINDA GROSS) I had to use my finger to push them out. There was tons.(GROSS PART OVER) After reading this I feel better knowing more about them and knowing that it is okay to remove them and know that this is the cause of my bad breath. I will definitely be talking with my mom about getting my tonsils removed now that I know that it is an option. I feel relieved that this might soon be over thank you for the info.

by cici on Jul 4, 2016 | 12:55 PM

hate these things

I'm 16 and I have been getting these for a long time. Every time I think they are gone they come back full force. I usually dig them out of the crevices of my tonsils with a bobby pin. I constantly get a bad taste in my mouth and my breath gets so bad that someone had actually told me it smelled. I've tried using mouthwash and brushing my teeth to get rid of the smell and taste. But the relief is only temporary the same goes for mints and gum. Today one of my tonsils hurt so bad that when I tried to use the bobby pin nothing came out.(WARNING KINDA GROSS) I had to use my finger to push them out. There was tons.(GROSS PART OVER) After reading this I feel better knowing more about them and knowing that it is okay to remove them and know that this is the cause of my bad breath. I will definitely be talking with my mom about getting my tonsils removed now that I know that it is an option. I feel relieved that this might soon be over thank you for the info.

by cici on Jul 3, 2016 | 4:18 PM

I just got so fed up with it i rammed my finger into my tonsil and scratched it out (as much as i could anyway) and now my tonsil hurts like s---. I need to get rid of these forever im not putting up with this disgusting s--- any longer. F--- you stones.

by Jay on Jun 28, 2016 | 7:06 PM

How I remove...

I usually remove mine by taking the tip of a q-tip off and then poking around with that, applying pressure on and around them. I find the cardboard part of the q-tip works better than the actual cotton swab. If you gag easily when doing it, you can try spraying chloraseptic spray on the back of your throat and it helps to numb it. NOT A DOCTOR, just what I do. I gargle with salt water after, too.

by Wendy on Jun 28, 2016 | 11:52 AM

This article really helps me a lot in determing what was that tiny white granules coming out from my throat. At first my left throat just produces them for couple of years, but just recently I was surprise that my right throat also releases it and it was surprisingly bigger than before. I laugh out loud with all the comments above especially that horrible smell but I find myself weird everytime i found that stones while i intentionally smells it. I was surprised also, that the usual way i used to get rid of it is the most suggested option here and probably the best. Thanks.

by Tor on Jun 27, 2016 | 12:12 PM

My advice is to let them come out naturally. Your esophageal muscles should push it out naturally.

by Gael on Jun 21, 2016 | 12:35 PM

Thanks a lot for sharing, at first i thought i might have an unique infection or disease coz i never met someone who had them, thank u once more im happy

by Tsitsi on Jun 20, 2016 | 5:39 AM

THE SECRET TO REMOVING TONSIL STONES

After struggling for hours, I've finally figured out how to remove a tonsil stone in ten seconds. Please (!) update the article to reflect this tip:

1. Press a q tip *next* to the tonsil stone, not on top of it. Remember, you're trying to get it to come out, not lodge it deeper into the tonsil.
2. Here's the secret: you MUST bear down with your throat as though you are trying to gag without letting yourself fully gag. In other words, you need to "wretch" or apply pressure from the guttural part of your throat. Sort of like you are coughing but silently and in a controlled manner. As soon as you do this, the tonsil stone pops RIGHT out. In 5 seconds.

Wish I had known long ago!

by Christina on Jun 18, 2016 | 12:36 PM

I just noticed about 2 months ago little white spots in my throat. They went away slowly and then a few days later I had more. There's about 10 tiny spots on each side. Is this normal? I have not been to a doctor because I don't have insurance. Does it sound like tonsil stones?

by Caitlin on May 30, 2016 | 7:02 PM

I definitely have tonsil stones...I can feel them and see them. But j can't remove them myself because I keep gagging! Any suggestions?

by GagMeNow on May 30, 2016 | 9:10 AM

Have been having this for years but this year it scared me a lot. have been feeling like something is stuck on my throat and was feeling really an comfortable took all drugs but it could not go away.then I laughed out a big one and that was the end of the uncomfortable am happy have read here it's the cause was so much worried

by Kenya on May 29, 2016 | 1:52 PM

So I gargle with salt and water to make it soft then I use a bobby pin and gently scrap it. It pop out.

by Steph on May 17, 2016 | 4:12 PM

They have been disturbing me for 20 years when I have a cold. Any relation?

by Githae on May 12, 2016 | 3:40 AM

They have been disturbing me for 20 years when I have a cold. Any relation?

by Githae on May 12, 2016 | 3:39 AM

tonsil stones

I've had this breath issue for years. I really really thought something was wrong with me, and was so ashamed. Also avoided conversations or input. Thank you, thank you to everyone for telling your story. I'm gonna give your suggestions a try. Thanks.

by Mary on Apr 26, 2016 | 5:02 AM

i have a similar experience with these stones.initially thy would pop out in tiny bits unexpectedly especially in the morning when ive just woken up. recently they have grown in size and i occasionally feel as if i have a huge debri trapped at the back of my throat. i coughed one big piece recently and got me scared. i havent been lucky though to see them despite opening my mouth wide in the mirror. does accumulation of bacteria facilitate their growth? coz ive exposed myself alot recently to oral sex and cant stop wondering about this coincidence!

by dru on Apr 23, 2016 | 8:39 PM

sir

I hate them! Can they cause cancer?

by beam on Apr 17, 2016 | 6:23 AM

Every 2 days

I'm 15 years old I brush my teeth every morning and night but I get them ever 2 days I don't know what to do. My mom say get them remove what should I do

by Destiny on Apr 11, 2016 | 4:59 PM

Every 2 days

I'm 15 years old I brush my teeth every morning and night but I get them ever 2 days I don't know what to do. My mom say get them remove what should I do

by Destiny on Apr 11, 2016 | 4:58 PM

Every 2 days

I'm 15 years old I brush my teeth every morning and night but I get them ever 2 days I don't know what to do. My mom say get them remove what should I do

by Destiny on Apr 11, 2016 | 4:58 PM

I finally dislodged this stone which had been in my tonsil for 2 weeks. I couldn't believe the size of it. Was size and look of the surface of a wisdom tooth, it was. I smashed it up in a tissue paper and the smell....Wow!

by Peter North on Apr 10, 2016 | 5:13 AM

Bad taste bad breath

Reading your comments freaked me out. Iv started noticing this ****ty smelling stones wen I was 10 years or less, I also coughed it out and boy did I almost die from the smell!! It seems like I have them every freaken day. Honestly I felt cursed and thought God is punishing me. It causes so much unbearable bad breath that would kill a person. My gawd!!! This too much! But I feel just a lil normal that I'm not alone. I feel so sad for my husband as he has to deal with the bad breath lol.

by Secret tonsil stoner on Apr 7, 2016 | 5:59 PM

I sometimes wake up with small tonsil stones in my mouth. The smelly little clumps somehow dislodge from my throat when I swallow.I get up to go spit them out. They smell horrible.

by Brittany Scott on Mar 31, 2016 | 12:38 AM

I sometimes wake up with small tonsil stones in my mouth. The smelly little clumps somehow dislodge from my throat when I swallow.I get up to go spit them out. They smell horrible.

by Brittany Scott on Mar 31, 2016 | 12:38 AM

I'm so curious as I get this tonsil stone 2_3 times a month, it look like a tiny pop corn ,I am planning to share such thing to anyone but I am ashamed with its faul smell . .I tried to search and I found out what is It, from now on I am going to brush my teeth after meal and gargle with anti bacteria

by Rhainnedrops on Mar 18, 2016 | 10:25 AM

Thanks, I just got one this morning before school and I felt this wierd thing in the back of my throat. I intentionally tried to cough it up but it didnt have any effect. So I saw the damn thing after I opened my mouth so I turned on my toothbrush and stuck it on my tonsile and got it out.it smelled like s... and I asked my mom and she said she recalled getting them but I got curious and looked up what it was so haha oh and btw im 4728294827172848483728 years old. Jk im 12 really I dont care what age u r

by Nick on Mar 14, 2016 | 5:02 PM

Even more confused

I occasionally get these tonsil stones.the thing is....I had my tonsils removed 30 years ago. They seem to originate from my nose/mouth soft palate area. Maybe it's why I'm a mouth breather. Lol. They never bother me or cause pain. They just come out when I blow my nose or snort in...like if I was going to hock a loogy. Only happens maybe once/twice a year. Maybe they're just small pieces of my frontal lobe. :)

by Steve on Mar 11, 2016 | 2:07 PM

I have been getting these too (for years) on and off. I know when they are there though because I get this really bad taste in my mouth (that no amount of tic tacs or gum can erase. Mine always seem to be little hard yellow ones that I can see when I open my mouth wide in front of the mirror, I just put my finger in and touch them with the tip and they come off on top of my nail. Seems to happen more regularly when I have bad reflux or have been vomiting (pregnant) don't think my breath smells but the taste is enough to make me clean my teeth more often and gargle every time I pop to the bathroom. I guess after reading this, there is not much to do about them though except keep checking for more once week or so.

by Em on Mar 4, 2016 | 4:56 AM

I daily remove it.

Hi all. I am very angry with this unnecessary problem. It wastes my time. I have to do unnecessary exercise on them for 15 minutes. I use to have milk at night. Probably that is also the reason. Even the protein and excess calcium at night is a big reason. Need to have control on my diet and oral irrigation will surely help.

by Akshay Gupta on Mar 3, 2016 | 5:20 AM

My boyfriend was telling me about these whitish chunks he would spit up but he had no idea what they were. Since I had my tonsils removed I've never experienced them. So glad I found some information on these tonsil stones to share with him. We both thought he had some type of infection.

by WorriedGirlfriend on Mar 2, 2016 | 3:43 AM

I have gotten these things for a long time. Just coughed one up tonight. Thought I'd Google it and see if anything came up. I'm a bit of a hypochondriac and was thinking something was really wrong! Love Google!!

by Rhonda on Feb 24, 2016 | 9:07 PM

I have gotten these things for a long time. Just coughed one up tonight. Thought I'd Google it and see if anything came up. I'm a bit of a hypochondriac and was thinking something was really wrong! Love Google!!

by Rhonda on Feb 24, 2016 | 9:06 PM

Ughhhhhh

Thanks so much everyone for your advice! Never knew what those things were! They're POISON lol

by Poison on Feb 23, 2016 | 5:10 AM

Eww

I'm 13 and a hypochondriac. I noticed these on my tonsils and I spit and it popped out and I was like IM GONNA DIE! Then helpful Google came in handy and I was so relieved although I still am going to the doctor because I'm trypophobic and removing these myself would just kill me from disgust.

by Jacob on Feb 22, 2016 | 11:23 PM

I'm so glad I Googled this too because I was about to set and appt with my ENT asap! I almost felt like I had some sort of disease or something! I found out I had one because recently I noticed when I'd smoke with my boyfriend, I thought I was swallowing pieces of weed because i felt something back there... Just yesterday I started picking at the back of my throat and thought I got a piece of bud and it was white so I ran to the restroom... I was like wtf is it... Kept scratching pieces off the finally decided to push below it as you would a pimple and all this white stuff came out... I was DISGUSTED! First of all, I'm a Trypophobic. For those of you who don't know what that is, I have a fear(phobia) of holes and so any time I see anything coming out of a dark hole and I'm uncertain of what it is... I get chills all over my face and arms LITERALLY... So when I see this disgusting hard white stuff come out, I almost vommited all over my bathroom sink. Eeeeek. Even now I continue to get goosebumps all over just thinking about it... Anyway, I thought it was an STD & was about to murder my boyfriend for cheating on me and what the entire **** was in my mouth???

----

Thank God for Google and everyone else who has had to deal with this... You guys saved me a trip to the dr and an uncomfortable conversation with my boyfriend. Lmfao.
It bled a little after and now just seems sore, but I'm hoping I never have to deal with this again because I wanted to die. 😩😭

by MissCake on Feb 18, 2016 | 7:37 PM
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