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It is not unusual for some people to experience a dull sore throat or a lump in their throat or tonsils. The tonsils are a pair of glandular organs found on each side of the back of the throat, and sometimes people find some white debris lodged in these tissues. Some people cough out the white chunks or lumps that look like popcorn or sea corals, while some are not aware they are there until they are seen on X-ray or CT scan. These tonsil "stones" or tonsilloliths may not have bothersome symptoms to some people, but to others who develop bigger tonsilloliths, they may cause discomfort, pain, swelling, difficulty swallowing, bad breath, and ear pain.

What Causes Tonsil Stones?

Tonsilloliths form when your tonsils trap debris such as dead cell, bacteria and mucus in the crypts and pockets of the glands. These harden and become calcified, turning them into solidified tonsil stones. These are more common among people who have chronic inflammation in the tonsils (tonsillitis) or recurrent episodes of tonsillitis. Although tonsillitis is more likely to affect young children, it may also occur in adults.

It is often caused by viruses, but it may also be due to bacteria, a condition also commonly known as strep throat.

Treatment Of Tonsilloliths

Many patients who have tonsilloliths suffer from bad breath because they harbor bacteria and tend to have large amounts of sulfur compounds that may emit a bad smell. However, it is not a serious condition. Furthermore, some dentists believe that most cases of bad breath are due to other causes such as periodontal disease, rather than tonsil stones.

In many people who have small tonsil stones that do not cause bothersome symptoms, no treatment is needed.

Some are able to cough them out naturally as soon as they are dislodged. Others choose to pick them out by themselves using a swab in front of a mirror. The only way to prevent them totally is through surgical removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy), but this is not often recommended unless the tonsil stones are very large and cause serious symptoms.

Some home remedies to improve your symptoms include:

  • Gargling with a non-alcohol-based mouthwash or salt-water solution. This can help reduce the discomfort that accompanies tonsillitis and tonsil stones. It may also help blast out small tonsil stones.
  • Some dentists recommend using oxygenating mouthwashes or sinus sprays to reduce the bacteria associated with tonsil stone formation.
  • Antibiotics may help treat bacterial infection, but it is not always recommended.

Since tonsil stones usually form due to recurrent bouts of tonsillitis, one can reduce his risk of developing them by preventing tonsillitis. The best way to do this is to observe frequent hand washing to avoid getting the viruses that cause tonsillitis. It is also wise to avoid contact with people who have strep throat and patients who have been ill. Consult your doctor for proper treatment of tonsillitis and tonsilloliths.

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