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What are tonsil stones?

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Tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths, are formed from calcified materials such as dead cells, bacteria and mucous that become trapped around the tonsils. The stones are mainly composed of calcium, but phosphorus and magnesium and other minerals may be present as well. Tonsil stones are usually found in the tonsillar crypts and are generally not harmful.

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Individuals who have chronic tonsillitis or tonsil inflammation are at risk for developing tonsil stones. The symptoms of tonsil stones include bad breath, a sore throat and difficulty in swallowing or feeling that there is a foreign object in the back of the throat. Experiencing ear pain and swollen tonsils is also common. According to WebMD, sometimes the stones are visible, but in some cases the stones are hidden in the crevices of the tonsils. In this circumstance, CT scans and MRI tests are needed to detect the tonsil stones. Tonsil stones have been associated with postnasal drip.

It is not necessary to treat tonsil stones if they produce no painful symptoms. However, treatments for more serious cases include curettage and oral irrigation, laser cryptolysis and eructation by drinking carbonated drinks. WebMD adds that the tonsils may need to be removed if the stones are large or cause particularly troublesome symptoms.

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