Irrigation, gargles, and other home remedies can help people get rid of tonsil stones, but they often fall out on their own. Medical treatment is also available if necessary.

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Tonsil stones are small stones that form in the tonsils. They usually do not cause symptoms, but can cause minor issues, such as bad breath or inflammation.

The tonsils sit in the back of the throat and are part of the lymphatic and immune systems. Usually, they capture and catch bacteria before they reach a person’s oral cavity.

However, the tonsils have small folds, or “crypts”, allowing bacteria and food to collect. This can create small, stone-like formations that doctors call tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths.

In this article, learn how to get rid of tonsil stones at home and when to contact a doctor.

A low-pressure water irrigator, such as a water flosser, may help to loosen tonsil stones. To try irrigation, a person can stand in front of a well-lit mirror and aim the irrigator toward the tonsil stones.

However, people should be careful when freeing a tonsil stone, as it can fall toward the back of the throat and cause coughing. Do not try this method in children, as it can be a choking hazard.

People can also use an irrigator to regularly flush the tonsils to help prevent tonsil stones from forming.

Gently swishing an alcohol-free mouthwash around the mouth can loosen tonsil stones and reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth. Reducing bacteria may help prevent tonsil stones from forming.

Gargling with warm salt water may help loosen tonsil stones. Saltwater gargles may also help relieve a sore, scratchy throat.

A person can prepare the salt water by adding 1 teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water, stirring until dissolved. They can gargle the liquid for several seconds and spit out into the sink, repeating if necessary.

Gargling with diluted apple cider vinegar (ACV) may help dislodge and break down the materials in the tonsil stones.

To make this mixture, a person can mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of warm water. Gargling with this up to three times a day can help loosen stones.

However, it is important to note that ACV is highly acidic and can erode teeth. Read more about the side effects of ACV.

Some people use cotton swabs to dislodge tonsil stones from the back of the throat. This method poses some risk of injury, so a person should talk with a doctor before trying it. Never attempt to use this method on a child.

If a person decides to try cotton swabs, they should dampen the swab, insert it toward the back of the throat, and gently sweep the stones away. They should also avoid touching the middle portion of the throat, as this can trigger the gag reflex.

Because many blood vessels surround the tonsils, it is essential to try only a few gentle sweeps with the cotton swab. If bleeding occurs, stop right away.

Some people find that a strong cough can help dislodge a tonsil stone. This is a less invasive approach, so it may be a suitable idea to try coughing before using a cotton swab.

A person can use this method by first gargling with salt water to loosen the stone. They can then try a series of hard coughs.

Yes, tonsil stones can fall out on their own. A person may cough out a stone or feel it dislodge before swallowing it.

However, if a person has a persistent stone that seems to be getting larger, they should speak with a doctor.

For an individual with frequent, irritating tonsil stones, a doctor may recommend a tonsillectomy, which involves surgically removing the tonsils.

While the surgery is common in children, both children and adults may experience significant recovery times. Adults typically have longer recovery times than children. There is also a risk of bleeding or pain following surgery.

As a result, doctors usually only recommend a tonsillectomy if a person is experiencing significant symptoms, such as problematic halitosis, due to their tonsil stones.

The area around the tonsils contains many blood vessels that can bleed, so if home remedies do not work, people should not attempt to remove tonsil stones with sharp objects, such as toothpicks or safety pins. This can cause bleeding and infection.

If a person has a tonsil stone that does not dislodge with home care, or they have recurring tonsil stones, they can contact a doctor for advice.

Seek medical attention for signs of a tonsil infection, such as:

  • enlarged tonsils
  • pus or white discharge from the tonsils
  • difficulty swallowing
  • pain that radiates to the ears
  • bleeding in the tonsil area
  • sleep-disordered breathing

It is also a good idea to seek medical attention if the person has managed to remove a tonsil stone but they are still experiencing pain or bad breath. People may require antibiotics and rest to treat an active infection.

Trying to dislodge a tonsil stone in a child can cause choking, so do not try this at home. A doctor can decide on the best course of action for a child with tonsil stones.

People can get rid of tonsil stones using salt water gargles, coughing, cotton swabs, or irrigation. However, they often fall out on their own.

While tonsil stones are usually a minor irritation and many are asymptomatic, they sometimes lead to infection and discomfort. If tonsil stones persist or cause painful symptoms, a person should contact a doctor.

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