Tonsil stones can affect a wide variety of individuals, regardless of gender or ethnicity. These pale, oval-shaped masses are made of food particles, dead cells, and microorganisms that combine with saliva on the surface of your palatine tonsils. Tonsil stones occur when these materials decay and calcify into hardened pellets in mucosal pits along the surface of the tonsils; these pits are commonly referred to as the tonsillar crypts.
Although anyone can experience tonsil stones, this condition is most commonly seen in young adults who have a history of recurrent throat infections and inflammation. Individuals who are most commonly affected by tonsil stones are those with large tonsils and deep tonsillar crypts, as they are more prone to the accumulation of food particles and debris near the back of their throat. People are especially susceptible to tonsil stones if they suffer from recurrent episodes of tonsillitis, as repeated bouts of inflammation in the tonsils can facilitate the accumulation of debris in the tonsillar crypts.
Additionally, those who fail to maintain healthy oral-hygiene habits are also prone to the development of tonsil stones. This is due to the increased buildup of food particles and other forms of debris in the mouth: if these substances are not removed regularly by frequent flossing, brushing, and rinsing with antibacterial mouthwash, tonsil stones are more likely to develop and may persist.
Recent studies have also demonstrated a link between persistent postnasal drip and tonsil-stone formation. This correlation is likely because of the increased mucus drainage into the throat experienced by these patients, which can facilitate the development of tonsil stones. Although tonsil stones are most common in adults, they are not usually observed in children or infants.
Not all individuals who develop tonsil stones are affected by noticeable symptoms. In fact, most people who experience this condition display no associated symptoms or side effects. Some patients, however, suffer from symptoms such as a chronic sore throat, bad breath, earaches, difficulty swallowing, and visible white spots on their tonsils. If you suspect tonsil stones are affecting you, see your doctor or an ear, nose, and throat specialist for an oral examination. He or she can suggest helpful at-home remedies and other forms of treatment.