Tonsil Stones (Tonsilloliths)
If someone asked you where stones can form in the human body, you might think of the kidneys. But, the kidneys aren't the only place. The tonsils are another location where hard, and sometimes, painful stones may develop in certain people.
What Are Tonsils?
Your tonsils are gland-like structures in the back of your throat. You have one located in a pocket on each side. Tonsils are made of tissue that contains lymphocytes -- cells in your body that prevent and fight infections. It is believed that the tonsils play a role in the immune system and are meant to function like nets, trapping incoming bacteria and virus particles that are passing through your throat.
Most medical experts agree that the tonsils often do not perform their job well. In many instances, they become more of a hindrance than a help. It may be that tonsils evolved in an environment where humans were not exposed to as many germs as we encounter today as a result of living in areas with relatively high populations. Evidence suggests that people who have had their tonsils removed are no more likely to suffer from bacterial or viral infections than people with intact tonsils.
What Causes Tonsil Stones?
Your tonsils are filled with nooks and crannies where bacteria and other materials, including dead cells and mucous, can become trapped. When this happens, the debris can become concentrated in white formations that occur in the pockets.
Tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths, are formed when this trapped debris hardens, or calcifies. This tends to happen most often in people who have chronic inflammation in their tonsils or repeated bouts of tonsillitis.
While many people have small tonsilloliths that develop in their tonsils, it is quite rare to have a large and solidified tonsil stone.