What Are Tonsilliths (Tonsil Stones)?

Tonsil Stones: How They Happen and How They Are Treated

tonsillectomy image, tonsillectomy surgery,
Tonsillectomy--See the Folds in The Tonsils Where Tonsilliths Can Occur. Image: © ADAM

Definition: A tonsillith, or tonsil stone, is a collection of food, saliva and/or infectious material that gathers in the crypts (folds) of the tonsils until they become small stone-like particles.

About Tonsil Stones (Tonsilliths)

Tonsillitis are usually diagnosed after a person notices a white chunk of something hard stuck to their tonsil.  These tiny, hard, stone-like pebbles of hardened food and saliva can be irritating to the tonsil and can cause pain.


Tonsil stones can also be irritating, as the person often feels something hard in the mouth that does not belong there. Some people experience chronic throat aches or pain when tonsil stones are present. In addition, they can cause chronic, severe bad breath, as they are essentially a hardened ball of old food and may also be surrounded by pus.

Treatment of Tonsil Stones

Tonsilliths can often be dislodged with normal activities such as eating or drinking.  When that doesn't work, gargling may be effective.  For some, gentle pressure, such as being brushing at the stone with a toothbrush can dislodge the stone.  If that doesn't work, dentists are typically able to remove these stones without much difficulty.  Infected tonsils may require antibiotic treatment before or after removal of the stone. 

Chronic problems with tonsilliths, known as chronic cryptic tonsillitis, can be permanently resolved with a tonsillectomy in severe cases that persist or reoccur frequently.

 The recovery from a tonsillectomy is known to be more painful in adults, so it shouldn't be taken lightly, but can dramatically improve quality of life for individuals who experience ongoing pain from tonsil stones. 

Also Known As: tonsilliths, tonsil stones, cryptic tonsillitis, chronic cryptic tonsillitis

Common Misspellings: tonsilith, tonsill stone.

Examples: The patient felt lumps in the back of his mouth, which were diagnosed as tonsilliths.

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