What are tonsil stones?

The correct medical term for the “holes” in the tonsils is tonsil crypts.  The normal immune-mediated swelling of the tonsil tissue sometimes creates indentations in the suface of the tonsils, which create Swiss cheese type of holes on the surface.

Technically, this is more of a nuisance than a medical problem. However, the tonsils crypts could trap food particles or prevent the normal shedding of the superficial lining from being discarded.  Often, these particles stay in the crypts and irritate the surrounding tissue.  The particles can also form concretions, knows as “tonsil stones”.  The medical term for these concretions is tonsilliths.

The most simple way of dealing with this problem is to chew carefully and thorougly, and to avoid foods with small particles (sesame seeds, etc.).  It is ideal to gargle with saline rinse right after meals, so that any trappped material could be washed out right away.  Occasonally, various procedures or even tonsillectomy might be recommended, depending on the severity of the symptoms.

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