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.


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 (26)
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I have suffered bad breath for more than two decades. After redaing your article on tonsil stones and how to remove them. i checked through my tonsils but could not see any sign of tonsil stones. Please can i do? The bad breath is getting worse.

by EBONY on Feb 26, 2015 | 7:05 AM

A non surgical option i came up with - pick a toothbrush that is rounded on the other end (the hard, non brushing end). I place that firmly against the back wall of my mouth, not against the tonsil but in front of it. I slide it side to side with a bit of pressure to express the tonsilloliths out of their cryptic caves. If you tighten and relax your neck muscles a few times while doing this movement, it seems to help more. Then I gargle with water to spit those nasty suckers out. I repeat this once every few days when they seem to collect.

I think this method is better than using something hard like a bobby pin or toothpick which can cause bleeding.

by chris on Feb 20, 2015 | 12:21 AM

having severe pain in only one tonsil..hurts to swallow and these white patches will go away for a week, and then reappear.. how does the removal procedure hurt? I tried cotton swabbing them, but they bled right away. any suggestions?

by Taylor on Feb 17, 2015 | 9:43 PM

I've had these for about 8 months now, but they have been on and off since and generally come into my mouth after I've been resting or sleeping. My breath is usually bad in the morning before I brush my teeth and now I know why. Im 15 so it makes me quite conscious. Thanks for the advice.

by Elizabeth on Feb 17, 2015 | 5:41 PM

Sufferer for 21 years

I always thought it was the residual effect of undergoing an endoscopy surgery, because eversince that instrument punctured my right tonsil, i've been suffering from these foul suckers since. However, not only did the problem affect my right tonsil, but it's begun to affect my left tonsil as well. While they are bothersome, i tend to naturally cough them up from time to time or use a tiny wooden stick that has a hook at the end to scape and push it out between the grooves, but i'm starting to worry a little due to the cronic bleeding i suffer from my tonsils. Also, about 20 years ago, i used a peroxide solution that causes foaming, but it instantly pushes these suckers from in-between the grooves and neutralizes bad breath smells. In addition to these methods, i gargle regularly with Listerine and alternate with warm water and salt. About a few months ago, after reading a couple of articles regarding this condition and watching a few Youtube videos, i stumbled across a product called Therabreath on Amazon. I think I'd give it a try and see if it works any wonders.

by MC on Feb 13, 2015 | 1:59 PM

Thank you for the article. I have suffered from bad breath for almost 10 years now. It really does effect your self esteem. I have noticed these tonsil stones on and off for years now. I never knew what they were. I assumed old food stuck in my throat. I thought the bad breath was due to my sinuses, post nasal drip, allergies, asthma, or nasal polyps. I'm sure in some way its all connected.

by Anonymous on Feb 13, 2015 | 1:10 PM

tonsil stones

I am fortune for up to now haven't had a bad breath caused by this throat poo . I remove them weekly , couldn't understand why I have them recurring but now with the information given thank you.

by Pamela on Feb 11, 2015 | 9:58 PM

I remember when I was younger I would cough up those little disgusting stones once in a while (usually in the summer). I am now 22 and I think I have post nasal dripping. Whever I wake up I feels something sort of leaking down the back of my throat. Since last year November I have been coughing up tonsil stones NON-STOP!!! Recently I realized that they are starting to get stuck in my tonsils. Between today and yesterday I extracted just about 6 stones from just one spot. And they were pretty big too. A little bit of bad breath started to surface but I'm praying it doesn't get bad because I HATE bad breath for especially me and anyone else! Idk what my next step should be.

by Shanon on Feb 5, 2015 | 12:11 AM

I've been suffering from these for about a month now, and I'm only 15, with an inflamed throat, and this really has helped a lot.

by Callum on Feb 2, 2015 | 4:06 AM


Had these things for ages, but discovered Buteyko Breathing Method and haven't had them, or post-nasal drip, or snoring, or asthma since.

by Scott on Jan 28, 2015 | 7:41 AM

I also suffer from the worst post nasal drip in the world every single day of my life!

by Excited on Jan 25, 2015 | 5:26 AM

I am 40 I have suffered with these miserable little creatures all my life and finally in a few days I will have my partial tonsillectomy and sinus surgery performed by Dr.krespi from NYC who specializes in these gross little creatures your recovery is only 3 to 4 days and is covered by insurance . Look him up if you guys aren't ready for a full blown tonsillectomy.

by Excited on Jan 25, 2015 | 5:24 AM

This is soo educating. Am making sure I don't become a victim because have leant it all from here. It's an interesting article. Thank you so much!

by Learning person on Jan 23, 2015 | 9:22 AM

Thank you so much for this article. For years I would either cough up one of these smelly pellets or it would just be on the back of my tongue and I always wondered what it was. I don't have bad breath or tonsil problems usually, but would notice a little bad breath prior to the pellet coming out. Anyway, now I know what it is. Thanks again.

by tmack on Jan 20, 2015 | 8:05 AM

I've had these 27 years!

Thank you! I've had these for 27 years! I remember the first time I cleared my throat and one landed on my tongue, I placed it on my finger and the smell is like concentrated rotting meat or garlic.
Strongest thing I have ever smelled!! 10 times worse than anything you could floss out of your teeth,(but similar smell) so after suffering from death breath for 27 I know what to do!
I have always thought is was my I floss and brush and have nice teeth but the breath! Omg!!
Yes I've asked my clue.asked my doc.said to gargle more often, with what, gasoline? I do think its a health (and social) hazard, as bacteria in mouth and gums that smells similar is linked to heart problems.well no wonder the only one who likes to be around me is my dog! Thank you and god bless!

by Mr Oregon on Jan 20, 2015 | 4:35 AM

This article is fab!my husband has the worst breath I make sure he sees the dentist regular and he brushes tippe floss things and mouthwashes but the smell remains I wonder if it is stones that the problem is next thing is how do I approach the subject without offending him !its been tricky over the years but I love him to bits and miss being close due to his breath being bad .And to Louise up the top the smell may be a familiar smell your family is used to and friends are not hence why they can smell it possibly?speak with a doctors or dentist and see what they think if your friend are just being nasty then they are not your friends really people sadden me when they treat people bad don't let them drag you down real friends will be there for you smelly breath or not

by Maz on Jan 6, 2015 | 5:04 PM

bad breath

Iv had tonsil problems since I was 18 I'm 29 now.Recently iv heard some of my friends gossip about my bad breath but iv asked my family to smell my breath but they say they don't smell anything even sitting close to family when talking so they can smell and they say they don't smell bad breath.This is causing me to be anti social and feel depressd.I'm constantly thinking if my breath is smelling like something that died.

by louise on Jan 4, 2015 | 8:47 AM

Gargle with peroxide and warm water.

by Shonte on Dec 30, 2014 | 2:12 AM

The smell of death on steroids

Thank you for this informative article. I just coughed up a small tonsil stone for the first time, and made the mistake of smelling it. Very disturbing, indeed. With the horrid smell coming from my mouth,I needed information, and I needed it fast. Thank you for the reassurance through knowledge.

by David on Dec 28, 2014 | 9:33 PM

How do I get rid of them

by How on Dec 26, 2014 | 7:48 PM
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