What are Cryptic Tonsils?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2018
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Cryptic tonsils are depositions of food and bacteria which form in the folds of the tonsils. Some people have tonsils which are unusually wrinkly and tend to trap particles of material, contributing to the development of this condition. A number of terms may be used to refer to this situation, including fetid tonsils, tonsil stones, tonsilloliths, and chronic caseous tonsillitis. There are several treatment options for people with cryptic tonsils, and it is usually not dangerous; it can be uncomfortable and may cause social awkwardness as a result of bad breath, however.

In someone with cryptic tonsils, the breath tends to smell bad because of the material caught in the tissue. The tonsils themselves may be speckled with white dots, and the patient may experience chronic sore throats and pain as a result of infections. Many people seek treatment for this condition because of the bad smell associated with it, and usually it is patient who notices the smell the most.

Sometimes, treating a patient with antibiotics is enough to resolve the problem. The antibiotics eliminate the bacteria on the tonsils and give them time to heal. In other cases, more aggressive treatments may be recommended. These can include laser ablation of the tonsils to remove the wrinkled areas so that they cannot catch debris, or surgery to remove the tonsils altogether. For patients with persistent cryptic tonsils, surgery may become the only option.


Patients with cryptic tonsils may note that their tonsils often feel enlarged or swollen. Looking at the tonsils in a mirror, the patient may be able to see the material trapped on and in the tonsils. Tonsils with deep crypts can make it hard to eat if a patient develops frequent sore throats and the tonsils are extremely large; sometimes airway blockages can occur as well. Usually the breath smells bad even after brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash because the material inside the tonsils will still be present.

Patients should be aware that many things can cause sore throats and bad breath. Even if someone thinks that cryptic tonsils are the cause of recurrent oral health problems, a doctor or dentist should still be consulted for an evaluation. A medical professional can rule out other causes, including more malignant conditions, and offer treatment recommendations which may help. Problems with oral health that are not addressed can contribute to the development of serious medical complications, including septicemia.


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