Tonsil Stones (Tonsilloliths)
How Are Tonsil Stones Treated?
The appropriate treatment for a tonsil stone depends on the size of the tonsillolith and its potential to cause discomfort or harm. Options include:
- No treatment. Many tonsil stones, especially ones that have no symptoms, require no special treatment.
- At-home removal. Some people choose to dislodge tonsil stones at home with the use of picks or swabs.
- Salt water gargles. Gargling with warm, salty water may help ease the discomfort of tonsillitis, which often accompanies tonsil stones.
- Antibiotics. Various antibiotics can be used to treat tonsil stones. While they may be helpful for some people, they cannot correct the basic problem that is causing tonsilloliths. Also, antibiotics can have side effects.
- Surgical removal. When tonsil stones are exceedingly large and symptomatic, it may be necessary for a surgeon to remove them. In certain instances, a doctor will be able to perform this relatively simple procedure using a local numbing agent. Then the patient will not need general anesthesia.
Can Tonsil Stones Be Prevented?
Since tonsil stones are more common in people who have chronic tonsillitis, the only surefire way to prevent them is with surgical removal of the tonsils. This procedure, known as a tonsillectomy, removes the tissues of the tonsils entirely, thereby eliminating the possibility of tonsillolith formation.
Unlike tonsil stone extraction, tonsillectomies are typically performed under general anesthesia. Patients who undergo the surgery have difficulty swallowing and a sore throat for at least a few days after the procedure.