What is a tonsillolith? Tonsilloliths, also known as tonsil stones, are irregularly shaped, whitish/yellow, foul-smelling globs of mucus and bacteria that get caught in the back of the throat. The tonsil stones form in the tonsil crypts which are simply small pockets or divots that appear in everyones tonsils. The scientific name for these white globs is tonsilloliths.
It is only recently that the oral care community has begun to understand what these white spots actually are – many people have reported that their dentist told them that they were just extra food debris, which is not true!These tonsillar stones don’t do any physical harm, and sporadically coughing them up doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you. However, they can be annoying (who wants to cough one up while they are kissing someone?), and sometimes they are an indication that you have tonsilloliths and bad breath.
If you have ever broken open a tonsil stone, then you know that they smell absolutely terrible! The smell is actually caused by a combination of volatile sulfur compounds (methyl mercaptan and hydrogen sulfide), post nasal drip, and bacteria.
They will only form in people who still have their tonsils; however, thatdoes not mean that you should run out and get your tonsils removed! Not too long ago, they were routinely removed for being swollen and inflamed. What was not understood then was that the tonsils’ sole purpose is to prevent organisms and bacteria from traveling deeper in the throat.
Tonsilloliths are not something that you have to live with – there are various treatments to get rid of them, without having your tonsils removed (which can be dangerous as people get older).