A loyal reader asked me to write a Medical Minute about Tonsiloliths, aka tonsil stones, also called tonsil calculus, pebbles, tonsil corn, etc. There is very little medical literature on tonsiloliths and your doctor may not have even heard of them. Some doctors mistakenly diagnose the yellowish tonsil calculi as a throat infection and prescribe antibiotics.
Tonsil stones usually affect adults who never had their tonsils removed. The stones are formed in crypts and crevices of your tonsils usually after you've had a bout of tonsilitis (infection of the throat). A tonsil stone may feel like a foreign object trapped in the side of your throat such as a popcorn kernel. You may be tempted to dig them out, but that is not advised.
The tonsils are lymphoid tissue on either side of your throat that act as part of your immune system to protect against infection. Crypts and crevices in your tonsils can run deep. Undigested food particles may become trapped inside these crypts where they are acted upon by bacteria and your immune system.
The undigested food is encapsulated inside a cheesy material that oozes out of your tonsils and adenoids and hardens into a foul smelling yellowish stone (calculous).
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