ZocdocAnswersWhat are tonsil stones?

Question

What are tonsil stones?

I'm in my 20s, and I've never had bad breath before ? but suddenly I have an awful case. I also am having trouble swallowing and the back of my throat feels scratchy and irritated. Maybe that's not connected? I'm not sure. What could cause this?

Answer

A sore throat and difficulty swallowing--with or without bad breath--can be caused by many different things. In order to determine whether these two things are connected, the best thing to do is see a primary care physician who can examine the throat and discuss other symptoms. Bad breath can be caused by many different things, including gastric reflux, bacteria in the mouth, poor dentition, gum disease, infections of the sinuses or oral cavity, or tonsilloliths. Difficulty swallowing and a scratchy throat can also be caused by several different things, including post-nasal drip, abscess near the tonsils, or a bacterial or viral infection. One thing that can cause the sudden onset of both bad breath and sore throat is something called a tonsillolith, or tonsil stones. The surface of the tonsils is covered with small crevices, called crypts. In some people, recurrent inflammation can cause some scarring in the crypts that makes them more likely to trap particles of food and mucous from post-nasal drip. Over time, this material can collect in the crypt and then calcify to form whitish particles known as tonsil stones. Tonsil stones themselves can be painful, while they can also cause inflammation and irritation making it difficult to swallow. The also typically have a foul odor and are often found in people with bad breath. In order to evaluate a sore throat and symptoms of bad breath, it is best to see a physician to determine what might be causing these symptoms and what can be done about them. Beyond a primary care physician, an ear, nose, and throat specialist can also help evaluate these complaints.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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