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 (195)
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Since I was 16 I thought I had some throat infection because no one I knew ever encountered the "stone" or so they say. But I am extremely relieved to hear that this is very common and it's not an incurable infection. I get the stones often and sometimes I can smell them in the back of my throat. That's like the worst thing ever, to know that your breath stinks really bad but not knowing how to get rid of it. So thank you for the article and everyone for your hilarious comments, this has definitely lifted my spirit. By the way f*** you smelly stone!

by I HATE stones! on Feb 19, 2017 | 7:55 PM

I hate my life

Ok, so I just found one of these little ****s in my throat for the first time a few minutes ago and I've had this constant fear of having tonsil stones. I've known what tonsils stones are and I never wanted to have them. Well, my body obviously hates me so much. I AM 14 YEARS OLD STOP GIVING ME THIS **** BODY I CANT MENTALLY HANDLE IT!

by Mare on Feb 9, 2017 | 9:35 PM

If you can't get them out manually for whatever reason, gargle with peroxide--just be ready for the results! They come spewing out! ALL of them!

by Niani on Jan 27, 2017 | 6:12 PM

Omggg I hate these thingsssss.

by Princess on Jan 25, 2017 | 11:43 PM

for about 2 months i have felt like my left tonsil was dry and in the mirror i could even see it was a little inflamed and bulging out a bit. it felt a little uncomfortable and my tonsil didn't feel good.

on two separate occasions i had small tonsil stones that i removed with a Q tip or something sharp, even though it hurt.

however 5 minutes ago i just coughed and jarred loose A GIANT TONSIL STONE that was hiding underneath my tonsil in between the tonsil and my throat flap, omg i t was 3 times the size of the one in the picture on the front of this page, it smelled horrible, now i know why everyone has been avoiding me for the longest time. i have kissed no girls at all recently because of the severe bad breath i have been suffering from, anyway i am glad i just coughed this out now, that was nasty!!!.

by anti-tonsil stones on Jan 14, 2017 | 8:58 PM

I didn't know I had them until my doctor pointed them out! I had gone in because of strep throat... My tonsils were always problematic growing up. I'm also prone to sinus infections and nasal drip. Tried removing them with a cotton swab but my gag reflex is unbearable and my throat too sensitive, I bled... İs this something a dentist could get rid of? I am clearly incapable of doing it myself and from what I see I have a lot =(

by Ster on Jan 13, 2017 | 10:59 PM

I used to get these, but havent for several years now--think they may be gone for good. Once I was at dentist and felt very self conscious. I asked the dental hygenist and she said " I can take care of those, open wide". She took the air blower (used to dry the tooth they are working on) aimed it at my tonsils and blew those gross tonsil stones right out of their hiding places. I gargled and rinsed, spit them out and was thrilled. Don't be afraid to ask your dentist--they have certainly seen worse things than a few little stones : )

by FellowSufferer of TS on Jan 1, 2017 | 8:13 PM

I used to get these a lot as a child. They were never hard but always mushy if you squeeze them in your fingers. I never bothered to smell it. Anyway, I got rid of them by gargling hydrogen peroxide every day after I brush my teeth. I recommend mixing one part water and one part hydrogen peroxide. Gargle for 15 to 20 seconds and spit. This also does wonders for gums and the back of your tongue if you brush lightly as well. Cheers!

by David on Dec 31, 2016 | 3:02 PM

Does no one else use tweezers? ? I do, and it works perfectly. You gently push them into the crevice of the tonsil and squeeze down on a stone and pull it out. It comes out as a full piece and doesn't break it up

by Whitney on Dec 29, 2016 | 11:28 PM

I'm 14. And when I first saw this come out of my mouth, I knew it could be the reason why I had bad breath. Am I prescribed to get rid of it at my age?

by Aziel on Dec 28, 2016 | 10:17 PM

I'm 45 and had this for the past 16 years. Doctors find it difficult to know what it it. Some put me on antacid. I undergo different exams to no avail. Now that I read this I confirmed that I do have white stuff in my tonsils and even they fall out while brushing my teeth and very unpleasant. I'm glad I didn't commit suicide as this was too much for me to handle. Thanks to you all.

by Christy on Dec 28, 2016 | 3:17 PM

This thing made my life hell, everyone in my class change the class because of this bad smell. i was so embarrassed .

by sparks on Dec 12, 2016 | 2:52 PM

I have bad breath, I can smell something stinky even when breathing through my nose! I'm very embrassed to be around ppl and I seriously thought I had throat cancer or something haha!! Bt thnks everyone I'm not alone!!

by Neisha on Dec 12, 2016 | 12:07 AM

the strange thing..

I get these periodically, and once I feel a tickle from one can usually cought them up and out. The odd thing is that they possess no smell either when in my neck or held on my fingertip. Until you squeeze/flatten or break them open - where th esmell resembles the worst halitosis. I'm glad this protective measure seems to keep them from giving me bad breath when present. Anyone else notice this curious factor?

by km on Nov 30, 2016 | 6:24 PM

Worse thing I ever experienced in life!!!If the smell wasn't there I could totally handle it. Someone called them death balls I do agree with that name.. Then they have to be in your mouth WHYYYYYY????

by AMzChiCity on Nov 8, 2016 | 4:32 AM

ive gotten these ****s since i was 14. im 21 now. they've ruined relationships and public speaking. no matter what i do, toothpaste, mouthwash and gum, nothing will get rid of the smell from these jerks. i have acrylic nails, and they're fairly long to where i can just pick them right out from my tonsil.
if you clench your left fist you won't gag. i've learned this from experience. i get them monthly, i first thought they were from the weather change. nope, i just get them all the time.
ive learned to deal with it.

by janelle on Nov 7, 2016 | 11:23 AM

Had these for years. Cutting out dairy helps as it makes the saliva all gloopy and can give you post nasal drip. I've now tried products from the The Breath Company range (from Boots), Profresh (www.profreshuk.co.uk) and have just brought Corsodyl. Therabreath range was ok but tonsil stones still came back, Profresh didn't have a minty taste but did work well. I ran out of Profresh so went into my local shop and grabbed Corsodyl. I've now stopped using that as it made my tongue REALLY sore. So have just ordered Profresh again. To be honest, the cheapest thing you can do is drink plenty of water, avoid sugar and dairy and keep you tongue clean by gently scraping.

by Cat on Oct 5, 2016 | 5:43 AM

Mono induced

I've been getting these ever since I had mono 13 years ago. My brother also said he started getting what he calls "throat buggers" after his bout with mono a few years earlier. Often wonder if they are a natural, ongoing bi-product of mono. Appreciated reading the preventative measures. I'll try them out.

by finally a real name on Sep 27, 2016 | 10:26 PM

Had these stones daily but now cured

I had these nasty stones morning and evening everyday and I used chopsticks'tip to get it out. It took some practicing and I got good at it. Don't use Waterpik!!! as I tried and even at low setting it punctured the soft tissue around it.
Then I adopted an alkaline diet (no dairy, meat but lots of veggies) and just after 3 days they were gone completely. I didn't do it for the stone but surprisingly it helped. When your body is not out of balance, weird things or diseases don't occur. Give it a try for a few days if these stones bother you. You can google it. Good luck!

by Wxo on Sep 14, 2016 | 4:35 AM

Biomedical scientist

I remember I got my first stonsiloliths when I was 15...was pretty shocked by this stinky substance, I couldn't talk about it to anyone. But it happens to me rarely since then. Last night, hanging out with friends, I felt my esophageal muscles bringing up to my mouth a big tonsil stone, then I decided to google it to know if I am sick. actually I feel no pain in my throat, I swallow easily. I definitely agree with one of the comments above stipulating to let them come out naturally, cause I am pretty convinced it is part of the body's cleaning system.

by Steevenson Beaubrun on Aug 25, 2016 | 5:34 AM

They could be caused by mono AKA "the kissing desease" and might end up blocking your airway. No matter what, you should probably see a doctor. Just to be safe. However, there is no cure for mono and it can last from 4-6 weeks or 1-2 months, depending on how long it takes your body to heal. Before you get worried, please note that 70% of people experience mono in their lifetime.

by Gross white spots on Aug 23, 2016 | 9:32 PM

I get these so often. I literally just got done taking two out. It's 4:22am and I woke up with an unpleasant discomfort In my right tonsil. I love looking at "gross" stuff like that on me lol. But I've never had them this big. It was atlease 2 cm big and I swallowed another one that was HUGE cuz I felt it in my throat while it was going down it was really gross. But funny because my breathe smells weird a lot of times and I think it's because these tonsil stones occur often for me. I brush my teeth and everything. Idk if I need a tonsil removal or what. But I often have irritated tonsils

by Katie on Aug 23, 2016 | 4:25 AM

I get these so often. I literally just got done taking two out. It's 4:22am and I woke up with an unpleasant discomfort In my right tonsil. I love looking at "gross" stuff like that on me lol. But I've never had them this big. It was atlease 2 cm big and I swallowed another one that was HUGE cuz I felt it in my throat while it was going down it was really gross. But funny because my breathe smells weird a lot of times and I think it's because these tonsil stones occur often for me. I brush my teeth and everything. Idk if I need a tonsil removal or what. But I often have irritated tonsils

by Katie on Aug 23, 2016 | 4:25 AM

I always experience them,but i neva knew wat it was,sometyms they come in groups.i thought it was lack of regular brushing of teeth but was surprised today as soon as i finished brushing my teeth it came but once out of my mouth no more bad breath,so i bcame worried to get to know wat it was nd why it comes out of my mouth.google was the only option for me bcos i couldnt explain it to anyone.tnks so much.

by Mimi on Aug 17, 2016 | 2:39 PM

Ewwwww stinky

My daughter got one of these in 2nd grade, about 8 yrs old. (she is the only one of my kids left that have tonsils.) one day I noticed her breath was so bad!!!! Even after brushing and mouthwash. She told me she felt like something was stuck in her throat. I looked with a light and sure enough this big white ball was sticking out of both her tonsils. Looked kind of like corks. I kind of freaked out for a min. The next day I called the school nurse to see if it was something contagious or needed to be looked at by her Dr. School nurse called her in,looked and let me know of these tonsil stones and best way of getting them out of a child is making them cough it out or to gag them with a tongue suppresser stick. But she did warn me that when they come out they are gross and stinky! Eventually she hacked and hacked for a few days til they came lose and out. My daughter asked me if I wanted to see it in the trash? My response was... ummm no thanks looks like you have it all under control, now go brush your mouth and gargle with mouthwash. Ha ha ha
She hasn't had anymore of these nasty things thank God, they sure are smelly and can even make this seasoned moms stomach do flips.

by Jennifer on Aug 15, 2016 | 3:21 AM

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
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