Tonsil stones or tonsilloliths are hard deposits of calcium, debris, and other materials that can form in your tonsils’ crevices. Though they’re usually harmless, they can cause pain and discomfort. You might be curious if you can get them without having tonsils — after all, how could something form in an area that’s no longer there?
It is possible to get tonsil stones without tonsils. This typically happens when people have had their tonsils removed via a tonsillectomy but still have some residual tissue remaining in the back of their throat. This leftover tissue can collect food particles and other debris just like normal tonsils would, leading to the formation of tonsil stones.
Without tonsils, stones may also form in the adenoids located in the upper part of the throat behind the nose. Stones in the adenoids develop in much the same way as in the tonsils, and the stones are called “adenoliths” to distinguish them from tonsil stones.
Read on to learn if tonsil stones can form without tonsils, their symptoms, some risk factors, and tips for preventing them.
What Are Tonsil Stones?
Tonsil stones (also called tonsilloliths) are hard, white clumps that form in the back of the throat due to food debris, mucus, dead cells, and other organic matter getting stuck in the crevices of your tonsils.
These crevices are known as crypts. When said substances become calcified, tonsil stones can form.
Although anyone can get tonsil stones, they’re more likely to develop in people who have any of the following:
- Chronic inflammation or infection of the tonsils (tonsillitis);
- Had their tonsils removed (tonsillectomy);
- Large or deep crevices in their tonsils; and
- Excessive mucus production.
Can You Get Tonsil Stones Without Tonsils?
Possible to Get Tonsil Stones Even Without Tonsils
Although tonsil stones commonly form in people who still have tonsils, getting them is possible even if your tonsils have been removed. This is because the crypts that trap debris and other materials can form on the stumps of the removed tonsils or in scar tissue left behind after surgery.
If you have one or more of the risk factors mentioned above, you may be more likely to develop tonsil stones. However, not everyone with these risk factors will get them. Similarly, people can develop tonsil stones even if they don’t have any known risk factors.
This information is important because it helps to explain why some people get tonsil stones even though they don’t have tonsils. It also highlights that certain risk factors increase the likelihood of developing tonsil stones, even if you don’t have any existing medical conditions.
This knowledge can help people to take steps to avoid getting tonsil stones or at least reduce their chances of developing them.
What Symptoms Are Associated with Tonsil Stones?
Most people with tonsil stones don’t have any symptoms. But if they become large enough, they can cause:
- Bad breath
- Difficulty swallowing
- Ear pain
- A feeling like something is stuck at the back of your throat
More Common in Adults
Did you know that tonsil stones are more common in adults than in children? If you have them, you may be able to see or feel them as white or yellowish-white specks on the surface of your tonsils.
If you have a sore throat and fever, it could be strep throat, which is caused by bacteria and requires antibiotics. But if you have a severe sore throat that lasts more than a few days, or if your tonsil stones keep coming back and are bothersome, see your doctor.
Can You Get Tonsillitis Without Tonsils?
Refers to a Swelling of the Tonsils
Tonsillitis refers to a swelling of the tonsils. This can occur due to an infection, such as strep throat. Tonsillitis can occur even if you don’t have tonsils because other body parts can become inflamed.
People Without Tonsils Are Less Prone to Tonsilitis
However, people with tonsils removed are less likely to experience this condition. The reason is that the tonsils help trap bacteria and other foreign particles that could cause an infection.
When they are removed, nothing prevents these particles from entering the body and causing an infection.
It’s also possible for your adenoids to become inflamed, and you mistake it for tonsillitis. The adenoids are located at the back of your mouth and near the top of your tonsils. They help filter out bacteria and other substances that could be harmful to you.
Symptoms of Inflames Adenoids
But when they become inflamed, they can cause a similar set of symptoms as tonsillitis, including:
- Sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing or speaking
- Ear pain
- Bad breath
The adenoids are situated in the back of your nose. Adenoids help prevent infections from entering your body. If you have had a tonsillectomy, it is still possible for you to get an infection because some bacteria will enter your body through the nose.
Factors That Influence the Likelihood of Getting Tonsil Stones Without Any Tonsils
The likelihood of getting tonsil stones without any tonsils depends on some factors:
You’re at an increased risk of developing tonsil stones if you’re between the ages of 20 and 40.
Around 33% of women are more likely to get tonsil stones than men.
Women with the following conditions are more prone to tonsil stones:
- Dry mouth,
- Postnasal drip,
- Overactive salivary glands,
- Infections, or
- Recurrent tonsillitis.
3. Health Status
People with long-term tonsillitis and poor dental hygiene are more likely to get tonsil stones.
A diet high in processed foods, dairy products, and sugar can increase your risk of tonsil stones.
5. Stress Levels
Stress can worsen the symptoms of tonsil stones and make them more likely to form.
6. Smoking and Drinking Habits
These unhealthy habits can irritate the tonsils and make them more susceptible to stones.
7. Sleep Quality and Amount
Poor sleep can increase stress levels and make tonsil stones more likely to form.
The list goes on! But do not worry; there are things you can do to prevent tonsil stones from developing in the first place.
Again, can you still get tonsil stones if your tonsils are removed? To permanently remove tonsil stones, you should get a tonsillectomy or tonsil removal. But, there are instances wherein tonsils grow back after this operation. Plus, like other procedures, tonsil removal has some risks.
Can Tonsil Stones Be Prevented?
Tonsil stones tend to occur if you have enlarged tonsils or a history of recurrent infections. The following preventive measures can help reduce your risk:
1. Practice Good Oral Hygiene
Brush your teeth 2x a day and floss daily. This helps remove food particles and bacteria from your mouth that can contribute to the formation of tonsil stones.
2. Drink Plenty of Fluids
Keeping your mouth hydrated is essential to prevent dehydration, leading to increased plaque buildup. Drinking plenty of fluids or water throughout the day will help keep your mouth moist.
3. Avoid Smoking and Other Mouth Irritants
These can cause the tonsils to swell and become inflamed. If you smoke, quitting is the best way to reduce your risk of developing tonsil stones. Other mouth irritants include:
- Spicy foods
- Acidic substances like tomato sauce and citrus fruits
4. Eat a Low-carb Diet
Eat foods low in sugar, as a high-sugar diet has been linked with an increased risk of tonsil stones. Try to avoid sugary drinks, desserts, and processed foods. Instead, focus on eating lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, and healthy fats.
5. Use an Alcohol-based Mouthwash Daily
This will help kill bacteria that can cause plaque buildup. Be sure to swish the mouthwash around your mouth for at least 30 seconds before spitting it out.
These home remedies may take a few weeks to work, but they’re worth trying if you want to avoid tonsil removal. If home remedies don’t work, the next step is usually a tonsillectomy.
Can You Remove Tonsil Stones By Yourself?
Most people can remove tonsil stones on their own by coughing them up or dislodging them with a cotton swab.
Tonsil stones aren’t typically a severe medical condition but can be annoying and uncomfortable. If you have tonsil stones, talk to your doctor about ways to remove them or prevent them from coming back.
In the meantime, you can try the following methods to remove tonsil stones at home:
1. Gargle with Salt Water
This may help to dislodge the stone and reduce inflammation. To gargle salt water:
- Dissolve ½ teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water.
- Swish the solution around your mouth and then spit it out.
- Repeat this several times a day until the stones are removed.
2. Use a Cotton Swab to Remove the Stone Gently
Be careful not to scratch your tonsils in the process. To remove a tonsil stone with a cotton swab:
- Moisten the end of the cotton swab with water.
- Gently press it against one side of the stone until you feel the stone detach from your tonsil.
- Repeat this on each side of the stone until it is dislodged.
3. Drink Plenty of Fluids
This can help prevent dehydration and keep your throat lubricated. Try to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Additionally, you can gargle with warm salt water several times a day to help reduce swelling and pain in your throat.
The above methods are simple, effective ways to remove tonsil stones at home. However, if you find that the stones are large or recurrent, it’s best to see a doctor for treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions – Can You Get Tonsil Stones Without Having Tonsils?
Why Do I Get Tonsil Stones Even Though I Have Good Oral Hygiene?
Even if a person takes excellent care of their teeth and mouth, some will still have tonsil stones because of the anatomy of their tonsils. This refers to the tonsil’s specific size and shape.
Smooth tonsils are less prone to develop tonsil stones than tonsils with many crypts and crevices. The reason is that smooth tonsils do not have as many places for debris to become lodged.
Can Tonsils Grow Back After 30 Years?
Although it’s unusual, your tonsils can come back if you’ve had them removed. If regrowth occurs, you should discuss the matter with your healthcare provider, even if it may not be cause for concern.
Why Did I Suddenly Get Tonsil Stones?
Tonsil stones are formed when this debris becomes hardened or calcified. People with chronic tonsil inflammation or recurrent bouts of tonsillitis are most likely to experience this condition at some point in their lives.
It’s somewhat common for people to have tonsilloliths of a smaller size, but it is rare for someone to have a huge tonsil stone.
Can You Feel a Tonsil Stone?
You may feel tonsil stones in your throat. The sensation they cause is typically annoying rather than painful.
Does Brushing Your Teeth Get Rid of Tonsil Stones?
Maintaining a good level of oral hygiene is the single most effective measure you can take to reduce the risk of developing tonsil stones. It is possible to reduce the number of germs in your mouth, which may affect the formation of tonsil stones.
You may brush your teeth and tongue thoroughly, floss, and use a mouthwash that does not contain alcohol.
Are Tonsil Stones Contagious Through Kissing?
Tonsil stones aren’t contagious, but it’s possible to transfer bacteria from one person’s oral microbiome to another through physical contact such as kissing or sharing utensils.
Because tonsil stones are linked to the health of your oral bacteria, kissing or sharing utensils with other people who have tonsil stones may put you at risk of getting the microbes that cause the condition.
Conclusion – Can Tonsil Stones Form Without Tonsils?
In some rare cases, people have reported developing tonsil stones even after their tonsils have been removed. So, while it’s unlikely that you will develop them without your tonsils, it is possible.
It’s also important to note that the removal of your tonsils doesn’t mean you will never get tonsil stones again.
If you’ve had your tonsils removed and still find yourself with this problem, it would be a good idea to see if there is anything else that could be causing these symptoms. If not, it might be time for another visit with your doctor.