What Are Tonsil Stones and What Do I Do About Them Article Image

Most people are vaguely aware of their tonsils and where they’re located, but many are unclear about what they actually do.

To be clear, tonsils are the round, fleshy bits on either side of your throat and they are actually part of your lymphatic system, helping your body fight off infection. This is important as a child, but as an adult the tonsils have almost no role in the immune system. The folds and crevices (tonsil crypts) of your tonsils are designed to trap germs that enter your body through your mouth, but can also be a source of trapped food particles which cause tonsil stones.

Tonsil Stones

Tonsil stones are tiny pellets that form when debris (bits of food, bacteria, dead cells, mucus, etc.) gets trapped in the tonsil crypts (those delicate crevices in the tonsils) and then calcifies. Many times these miniscule white or yellow “stones” go unnoticed but sometimes they can cause issues for people that have them. The number one complaint about tonsil stones is that they cause halitosis (bad breath).

Swallowing Issues

If tonsil stones are small they may go undiscovered for quite some time. However, if the calcifications become larger, they can impact swallowing. These hard bits make it feel like you have something in your throat.

If tonsil stones are a chronic problem for patients, the doctor may suggest a tonsil cryptolysis or tonsillectomy.


Enlarged tonsils can interfere with the air passage and cause snoring. While snoring can be irritating to your spouse, it is not harmful to your health unless it coincides with sleep apnea. Your body receives reduced oxygen when dealing with sleep apnea and this can be a serious issue.

Approximately 4% of middle aged men and 2% of middle aged women have enlarged tonsils that obstruct their breathing, causing sleep apnea. There are a number of reasons why the tonsils are enlarged; it could be congenital, from recurring infections or other factors.

If snoring is an issue for you, speak with Dr. Brian Rotenberg about possible solutions. Specializing in the head and neck, Dr. Rotenberg has insights into why you’re experiencing the symptoms you are and what can be done to help.