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What causes tonsil stones?

Tonsil stones are odd little things. They appear from the back of your mouth as small hard or soft white lumps when you are least expecting it.

Sadly, they are not just annoying, they can cause tonsillitis, bad taste and worse all all bad breath. They are often associated with previous or current tonsillitis problems, and that is how they are caused: when tonsils become sore, they swell up. This can cause cracks to appear on the surface, and these cracks are where tonsil stones form.

Tonsil stones occur because food particles get trapped inside these cracks whilst we are in the normal process of chewing. The act of swallowing causes them to be pushed deep into the cracks, so they don't fall out on their own. Every time we eat, more food is pushed down into the cracks, and over a few days this food tends to rot, as it is organic.

It is the rotting that sets up the bad taste, bad smell and triggers tonsillitis. Eventually the stone becomes too big for the crack, so it pops out, unexpectedly, and can appear in the back of the mouth, or be coughed up as a smelly white lump, usually 1-4 mm in size.

Learn more about tonsil stones:

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© 2020 by Mike Dilkes ENT Laser Surgery

General Medical Council: 3096325

Mike Dilkes is a leading ENT surgeon based in London. He specialises in laser surgery for treatment of a range of Ear, Nose & Throat issues including tonsillitis, tonsil stones, snoring, sleep apnoea, cancers, catarrh and allergies. Typical treatments include laser tonsillectomy under local anaesthetic (also called tonsillotomy, tonsil resurfacing, tonsil crytolysis) or general anaesthetic (also called intracapsular laser tonsillectomy, inside-out laser tonsillectomy), palatoplasty, septoplasty, turbinoplasty, uvulectomy and posterior turbinoplasty for post nasal drip. Principal Mike Dilkes has over 20 years of consultancy experience and around 5,000 ENT operations and procedures performed.