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While it is postulated that the tonsils play a role in the immune system of our body (since they contain lymphocytes), their exact role and function is not yet certain. This is because our body's immune system continues to function in the same manner in the presence or absence of tonsils.

Our tonsils contain physical crypts and crevices which probably evolved as a way to prevent micro-organisms and debris from entering into our bodies. This debris often gets calcified and appears as a whitish formation on the surface of the tonsils. These hard formations are referred to as tonsilloliths or tonsil stones.

These stones are more likely to be formed in people who have deep crypts in their tonsils. It is also almost always seen that multiple smaller stones are formed instead of one large tonsillar stone. Some symptoms that have been associated with the presence of tonsillar stones are:

  1. Presence of an ear ache
  2. Frequent sore throats
  3. Pain during swallowing
  4. Bad breath
Almost all of these symptoms arise from a bacterial colonization in the surface of these stones rather than the stones themselves.

There is also a popular urban myth on these stones disrupting breathing, however that is almost impossible to happen. If your tonsil stones are causing you trouble or discomfort then there are various ways in which they can managed.

Treatment:

Salt Water Gargles

The idea here is to gargle vigorously to try and dislodge the stones from the tonsils as well as try and clear away the debris from the tonsillar crypts. This is a useful method for smaller stones.

Self-Removal

If a vigorous gargle or a cough is unable to dislodge the stone then you can try and remove it with your own finger or a swab of cotton. This method is not really recommended as it can trigger your gag reflex and cause you to throw up.

It is always better to see your doctor and leave it to the professionals.

Lasers

This is an easy out patient procedure that is performed under local anesthesia. Your doctor will attempt to obliterate the deeper crypts where the stones are most likely to form and thus prevent their re-occurrence once they have been removed. The procedure has seen some success although it might be difficult to completely eliminate all possibility of stone formation.

Tonsillectomy

This is the route that a lot of doctors like to go for only if none of the other remedies seem to be working. The procedure is quite simple and is usually performed by a scalpel, laser, or a coblation device, however as with any surgery, there are some possible complications that can occur. It may require a stay in the hospital for a couple of days following surgery although that decision is subjective to the surgeon's preferences.

This procedure is safe for both children and adults to go through with under proper care and does not preclude the patient to any infections due to a compromised immune system.

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