What a Tonsillolith Is, and How to Remove It

Your kidneys aren’t the only part of your body that can get stones. A tonsil stone, or tonsillolith, is a calcified deposit that may occur on your tonsils or in the back of your throat. They can be painful, annoying, and cause bad breath—but there are ways to remove them.


Your tonsils are large glands in the back of your throat. Although many scientists believe that their original purpose was to assist the immune system, they are not very efficient at their job—in fact, they can almost be more harmful than helpful. They are full of nooks, crannies, and crevices that trap things in your throat.

Causes of Tonsil Stones

Some of the things that get trapped in your throat can include dead cells, mucus, and bacteria. Sometimes, instead of draining mucus out of your nostrils, your nose will drain it down the back of your throat. When that happens, it can get caught in your tonsils.

When those deposits caught in your tonsils calcify or harden, they form tonsil stones. The hardening is thought to be due to anaerobic (living without oxygen) bacteria that produce sulfur. Their chemical reactions not only form tonsil stones, they also ensure that tonsil stones smell awful.

Tonsil stones are often white or yellowish in color and very hard. Although they are usually only a millimeter or so across, some may be as large as multiple centimeters in diameter.

Symptoms of Tonsil Stones

Tonsil stones have been known to cause swollen tonsils, odd tastes in the mouth, and difficulty swallowing. White debris might be apparent, one of the most obvious signs of tonsil stones. They can cause sore throats, as well as the occasional earache (because the throat and ear have shared nerve pathways). If you have tonsil stones, you may feel the sensation of a foreign body trapped in your throat, or you may feel like you’re on the verge of choking.

Tonsil stones are most problematic, however, for causing bad breath. Halitosis and tonsil stones are closely related, and many bad breath problems can be tied back to deposits on the tonsils.

Treatments for Tonsil Stones

There are many different ways to get rid of tonsil stones, ranging from letting them break up and disappear on their own to surgery for extreme cases. Occasionally lasers or a tool called a curette are used to resurface and scrape down the tonsils, decreasing the surface area where stones can lodge. Most people are looking for options in the middle, and fortunately there are solutions.

First of all, keeping your mouth clean in a good place to start. Brush your teeth thoroughly, rinse out your mouth, and use a tongue cleaner to remove bacteria and debris from your tongue. Anaerobic bacteria are killed by oxygen, so oxygenating toothpastes and mouth washes are a great way to wipe out those bacteria and stop the tonsil stones from forming in the first place.

Next, you need to remove any tonsil stones that have already formed. Although you may be tempted to try knocking them out with your finger or a cotton swab, one wrong move can rupture your tonsils and leave you a lot worse off than you were before. Gargling is your best bet, especially with a special oxygenating solution to kill off the bacteria.

Removing mucus will help to clear out your nasal passages and prevent tonsil stones form forming again, so make sure to blow your nose regularly. Special sinus drops that are inserted into the nostril and allowed to run down the throat can also help keep your tonsils clean and clear of mucus.

Finally, if you have any remaining problems with bad breath, throat spray or lozenges can help you stay fresh all throughout the day. Again, oxygenating products are best, since they kill the bacteria that not only form the stones but also make them smell terrible.

Tonsil Stone Removal Products

There are many different products available to help remove tonsil stones, such as special oxygenating rinse, toothpastes, and gargles. These may be all sold together in a kit for convenience and to provide the maximum stone-removal power available.

Tonsilloliths can be painful, annoying, and awkward; they can ruin your breath and your confidence. But you don’t have to be a victim of your glands. With a little bit of work and the proper treatment, you can get rid of tonsil stones for good. 

Please feel free to contact Ella Gray at [email protected] with any questions.