Tonsil stones are the result of accumulated debris and microorganisms in the crevices of your palatine tonsils. These lymphatic organs are located on either side of the back of your throat. The tonsils contain important immune cells and are responsible for trapping incoming bacteria, viruses, and other harmful particles that enter the mouth. Finding the best ways to manage and treat your tonsil stones largely depends on their cause, relative size, and whether they are causing you discomfort.
Many tonsil stones are asymptomatic, and therefore they do not require special treatment or management. Some individuals with this condition attempt to dislodge visible tonsil stones at home using a cotton swab. Additionally, those with occasional inflammation related to their tonsil stones often manage their condition by gargling with warm, salt water to cleanse the affected area and to reduce any inflammation.
If your tonsil stones are large or are accompanied by troublesome symptoms-such as persistent inflammation, swelling, difficulty swallowing, earaches, or chronic pain-you may require medical treatment to manage your condition. See your family doctor or an ear, nose, and throat specialist for an examination if your symptoms are causing you discomfort or pain. He or she may prescribe antibiotics to treat tonsil stones if you are also suffering from a bacterial infection. However, it should be noted that antibiotics will not correct the tonsil stones themselves but will only target the bacteria that may be aggravating the tonsillar crypts. As a result, antibiotics cannot ensure the long-term removal of tonsil stones.
Some medical professionals recommend surgery instead of antibiotics, as surgery is currently regarded as the most effective way of getting rid of persistent and problematic tonsil stones. If your tonsil stones are enlarged and are making swallowing difficult, you likely will need surgery to remove the offending stones. Your doctor can perform this procedure using a local anesthetic. If your symptoms persist and new tonsil stones continue to form, however, your doctor may recommend that you visit an ear, nose, and throat specialist for an examination. Based on this evaluation, you may need to have your tonsils surgically removed to prevent tonsil-stone formation permanently. This procedure is called a tonsillectomy and is conducted under general anesthetic.