What Are Tonsiloliths?

What are tonsiloliths? Some people notice that they have small white hard lumps in the back of the throat in the tonsil region. The lumps range in size from quite tiny to pea size and they tend to remain lodged in the tonsillar area for some time, until they eventually become dislodged. They are often associated with a bad smell coming from the tonsil area, and may create the physical sensation of having something lodged in the back of the throat.

Tonsiloliths are accumulations of dead skin cells and other cellular and noncellular debris that wash down the back of the throat from the sinuses and nasal cavities. People who suffer from post nasal drip often have tonsiloliths because they have a regular flow of mucus and sinus drainage past the tonsils. The little stones occur in the tonsillar crypts because this is one place where material can become lodged. Because they contain abundant protein, they provide a fertile place for bacteria to flourish, particularly the anaerobic bacteria that live on the back of the tongue and in other airless places in the mouth. The growth and metabolism of these bacteria produce bad breath from tonsils – halitosis.

Tonsiloliths, sometimes also referred to as tonsil stones, can be very difficult to get rid of. Though the individual stones eventually become dislodged and get swallowed, more will soon begin to form. Individuals who have had their tonsils removed usually do not suffer from tonsiloliths, but tonsillectomy is not a recommended treatment for the problem: remedies are best directed at the bad breath from tonsils as this is the most troublesome symptom.

The odor that emanates as bad breath from tonsils is caused by sulfur compounds produced by bacteria. The bacteria live and multiply in and on the tonsil stones, thus they will not be affected much by brushing the teeth or tongue, or rinsing the mouth with antibacterial mouthwashes. Breath sprays and mints are also likely to be ineffective. The best approach is to gargle regularly with a good mouthwash that is designed to reduce the numbers of anaerobic bacteria in the mouth. This will not only reduce the odor, it may also help to dislodge the tonsil stones.

2 comments

  1. JL Reply
    August 31, 2007 at 5:10 am

    You probably do not have tonsilolith because all your recommendations are ineffective. I tried most of the mouthwashes out there but it was ineffective. Antibiotics are not recommended because it may promote drug resistant strains of bacteria. I am glad I had tonsillectomy done because it was effective. I do not have those nasty tonsilloliths and the bad breathe the goes with it.

  2. Anonymous Reply
    December 11, 2012 at 2:09 am

    I had wanted to know more of the tonsils issue and cure that won't the sickness come again cos I have that problem, but I think with the little I learnt will help me get rid of it. Thanks!

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