Tonsil stones, also called tonsilloliths, can be an extremely irritating problem. There are several different methods that can be used to remove tonsil stones and several additional preventative methods that can stop the problem altogether. In terms of possible complications, it is better to at least attempt to remove the tonsil stones in ways that do not require surgery before taking more drastic measures. The most common methods used to remove tonsil stones are manual and entail scraping or otherwise brushing the stones out of place. Once the stones have been removed, using mouthwash and gargling can at least partially decrease the formation of tonsilloliths.
Usually tonsil stones can be removed at home using a long instrument with a soft or rounded end to scrape the formations out of the tonsil crypts. First, you must find the tonsil stones using a mirror and a light, if possible. Next, you must moisten the scraping instrument and attempt to dislodge the stone by sweeping it out of the tonsil crypt. It is possible to push the stone deeper into the crypt, which can make it even more difficult to remove, so exercising caution is a very good idea. Sometimes, it may take a few tries before the stone can be dislodged.
It is also possible to remove tonsil stones by squirting water from an oral irrigator. The water must be at a strong enough pressure to dislodge the stone, but should not be so strong that it hurts. This method can sometimes be difficult if the stone is lodged firmly in the tonsil crypt. Gargling with vinegar can help remove tonsil stones more easily.
In some extreme cases, resurfacing the tonsils can help give the stones less area on which to form. Resurfacing is typically done with lasers and both effectively smoothes out surfaces and prevents debris from becoming trapped in the crypts. A tonsillectomy can remove the problem entirely, but this solution is often considered too drastic for minor cases.
After stones have been removed, it is absolute essential to clean the area thoroughly. Washing your mouth regularly with mouthwash, vinegar, or salt water can often prevent stones from forming and may help dislodge stones that have already formed. Using caution when scraping the back of your throat is essential because it is possible to cause injury to that area with hard instruments. When in doubt about whether a formation is a tonsil stone or when a tonsil stone is difficult to remove at home, it is a good idea to seek professional medical help.