Tonsillolith Symptoms, Causes & More

By priscilla
Reviewed: dr. stavarache
Article Sources Article Sources
  • 1. Krespi, Yosef P., and Victor Kizhner. 'Laser Tonsil Cryptolysis: In-Office 500 Cases Review.’ American Journal of Otolaryngology, W.B. Saunders, 10 Apr. 2013,
  • 2. C. Chang; R. Thrasher. 'Coblation Cryptolysis to Treat Tonsil Stones: a Retrospective Case Series.’ Ear, Nose, & Throat Journal, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  • 3. Alfayez, Abdulrhman, et al. 'A Giant Tonsillolith.’ Saudi Medical Journal, Saudi Medical Journal, Apr. 2018,
Medical Expert Medical Expert

Tonsilloliths, also known as tonsil stones, are stones which can form at the back of the throat within the tonsils. They are not serious but can cause a sore throat or bad breath.

Tonsil stones can grow into large formations that may cause the tonsils to appear swollen. Tonsilloliths can occur at any age but are more common in adults than in children. Some people just develop one, whereas others can have over one at a time. In some people, even when they get rid of one, another one forms somewhere else. In rare cases, tonsilloliths may lead to more serious health conditions.


Tonsils can have pockets, tunnels and crevices, which are commonly known as tonsil crypts. These spaces in the tonsils may trap various forms of debris, such as food, saliva and dead cells, that build up over time. Microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria feed on the buildup and release a distinctive bad odor.

As time passes, the debris solidifies into a tonsillolith. An individual may have only one large tonsillolith or many smaller ones. Tonsilloliths may occur because of chronic sinus issues, chronic inflammation of the tonsils or poor dental hygiene. Viral infections due to the adenovirus and rhinovirus are also common causes.3Alfayez, Abdulrhman, et al. ‘A Giant Tonsillolith.’ Saudi Medical Journal, Saudi Medical Journal, Apr. 2018,


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