ZocdocAnswersWhy does my ENT touch the back of my tonsils?

Question

Why does my ENT touch the back of my tonsils?

Every time I go to see my ENT one of the things he always does is use something, that looks like the little mirror dentists use to look at the back or your teeth, to touch the back of my tonsils. He usually has two or three of these tools laid out and ready when he starts the examination, he has a small oil candle (the kind that you have to refill and replace the wick occasionally) that he lights, then he takes one of the tools and holds the it over the flame for a few seconds (presumably to sterilize) then after letting it cool for a few seconds he'll put it in my mouth and touch the back if my tonsils and it feels like he slightly lifts them. Afterwards he touches them one time he puts that one away and grabs another just like it and does the same thing, usually two but sometimes three times. He's an older man and known for being "old school" but he is also the best ENT doc in town, so I figure there has to be a reason.

Answer

You ask some very good questions about your ENT, and the examination that he is performing. Of course I am happy to give you my thoughts as to what he is likely doing, but the best way to get a straight answer that is going to be accurate, would be to go to him and ask him directly. If you aren't comfortable with that, you could always get a second opinion from another ENT (aka otolaryngologist). None the less the mirror that he is using to examine you isn't just to examine your tonsils (at least not your pharyngeal tonsils... the 'tonsils' that most people refer to). There are also things called adenoids which are tonsils in the back of your nose which can be visualized from below with a mirror. The mirror can also be used to examine your pharynx, base of tongue (the part of your tongue not able to be visualized through the mouth... without a mirror), and larynx (aka voice box). The vocal cord mobility can be assessed, and whether there are any masses on the vocal cords can be ascertained. The mirror is typically heated to prevent it from fogging up and preventing a good exam (hence the flame... there are many other ways to heat the mirror). That is probably why he is doing what he is doing. I hope this helps, please speak with your doctor.

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