What Are They?

Tonsil Stones, also known as tonsilloliths, are lumps that form within the tonsils. These can be either white or yellow and are usually firm. Though very unpleasant for the sufferer, tonsil stones are not contagious and rarely go on to be anything serious. Quite often, a person with tonsil stones will not be aware they have them to start with as they aren’t easy to see and although they can get to be the size of a grape, they can also be as small as a grain of rice. They can cause swelling and pain in the tonsils and they have an unpleasant odour.


Mucus, food, saliva and dead cells can build up in the pockets of the tonsils (tonsil crypts). This causes bacteria and fungi to develop and with time this will form a tonsil stone. Sometimes one will form, other times it can be several at a time. Things that can cause this build-up include:

  • Bad oral hygiene
  • Chronic sinus problems
  • Oversized tonsils
  • Chronic tonsillitis


It can be hard to visibly spot tonsil stones but there are symptoms that come with them that will make you aware there is an issue. These include:

  • Yellow or white lumps on the tonsils
  • Earache
  • Painful and swollen tonsils
  • Persistent cough
  • Smelly breath
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing


Tonsil stones can return once you have them. There are several things you can do to prevent this from happening. These include:

  • Keep hydrated with plenty of fresh water
  • Keep on top of oral hygiene and brush your tongue as well as your teeth
  • Swill your mouth out with salty water regularly
  • Do not smoke


Although tonsil stones are usually harmless, most people understandably want them gone as soon as possible. Methods to remove them include:

  • Coughing – Vigorous coughing can loosen the stones
  • Minor Surgery – In extreme cases, this is an option although rarely cures the underlying problem
  • Gargling – Using salty water or mouthwashes to gargle can ease the pain and swelling and help to loosen the stones
  • Tonsillectomy – Removal of the tonsils to prevent further infections in chronic cases will solve the problem
  • Antibiotics – These will lower the build-up of bacteria but will not treat the initial cause