White Spots On Tonsils – Are They Tonsil Stones?

February 17, 2010

White spots on tonsils are a common complaint and can have a variety of causes, including tonsil stones, tonsillitis and even a strep infection.

Tonsil stones usually present as tiny, hard stone-like objects that are white or yellow-white in color. They form in the tonsil crypts, small pocket-like structures in the tonsils that collect bacteria, dead cells, food particles and mucus caused by post nasal drip. As they grow in size and protrude from the tonsil crypts, they can easily look like white spots on the tonsils.

No one is absolutely sure how many people suffer from tonsil stones. A recent article in the New York Times cited a 2007 French study in which approximately six percent of study participants had tonsil stones. Dr. Harold Katz, a Los Angeles dentist who specializes in bad breath and taste disorders, thinks the percentage of adults with tonsil stones is significantly higher because the number of tonsillectomies performed has dropped sharply since the 1950s and 1960s, when the operation was almost a rite of passage for America’s youth.

One sure way to stop tonsil stones is a tonsillectomy, which also typically puts an end to chronic tonsillitis and other bacteria or viral-based infections of the tonsils. Most doctors are cautious about removing the tonsils of adults solely for the purpose of stopping tonsil stones. However, most patients who have the stones are anxious or even desperate for a remedy because the stones have an extremely disagreeable odor.

In cases like these, vigorous gargling with a non-alcoholic mouthwash or the use of an oral irrigator (such as a Waterpik) can dislodge and clear the stones from the oral cavity. According to Dr. Katz, an oxygenating oral rinse can also be used to kill odor-causing anaerobic bacteria in the mouth, while a nasal sinus spray will curb the post nasal drip that is the source of mucus in the tonsil crypts. Products like these are part of a tonsil stones starter kit sold at Therabreath.com.

While tonsil stones are a common cause of white spots on the tonsils, chronic tonsillitis and strep infections can also cause white spots on the tonsils and in other places in the oral cavity. If in doubt, be sure to consult a doctor or ENT, especially if you have a fever, about those white spots on your tonsils.


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