Tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths, are formed in the tonsils of affected adults. The stones can arise from material, such as food, mucous and bacteria, that collects in the crypts(holes) of tonsils. The can also be formed from a strain of bacteria, actinomycoses, that are found in the tonsils and produce sulfur granules. The stones are typically white or yellow in color, and either hard or cheesy in consistency. The usually have a foul smell which is due to the presence of sulfurous compounds.
Symptoms of tonsil stones(tonsilloliths) include bad breath(halitosis), sore throats, difficulty swallowing, and the sensation of a foreign body in the throat. Bad breath, or halitosis is the symptom that usually drives people to seek medical treatment.
Tonsil stones can be removed at home using a swab, pick(gently) or water pik. Daily gargling may help to clear the tonsils of debris and prevent the formation of stones. While antibiotics may provide short term relief, they do not ‘cure’ the condition.
Tonsillolithiasis, or tonsil stones can be effectively treated with an office procedure, laser cryptolysis. Using a carbon dioxide laser and local anesthesia, portions of the tonsil are vaporized, eliminating the crypts and therefore the source of the stones. Laser cryptolysis is not painful, has minimal risk of bleeding, and pain medication is not necessary.
The ultimate treatment for tonsil stones is a tonsillectomy, when the entire tonsil is removed. This is an outpatient procedure, performed in the hospital under general anesthesia, with a 1-2 week recovery due to throat pain and risk of post-operative bleeding.
If you are tortured by tonsil stones, make an appointment to see the doctors at Great Neck ENT to see if you are a candidate for laser cryptolysis.