Throat exam

White Spots on Tonsils

Have those white spots on tonsils appeared again? Don't worry, they are not a symptom of a serious life-threatening ailment. Read this article to find out the causes of those white spots and the effective treatment.
White spots or patches on tonsils are known as 'tonsil stones' or 'tonsilloliths'. Our tonsils have small indentations on them which are known as crypts. At times mucus, bacteria and food particles get stuck in these crypts, which in turn gets covered by a tissue known as mucosa. This tissue lines our mouth and nasal cavity. This mass of mucus, bacteria, food particles and even some mucosa is seen as white spots.


The primary cause is food, mucosa lining and bacteria that are stuck in the crypts. Other than that, it is believed that in some cases, it can also indicate a strep throat, in which case one should visit a general physician who will prescribe some antibiotics. Bad oral hygiene is also said to be one of the causes. Some also believe that lack of a proper diet along with lack of exercise and being overweight, could also be a cause but this is unlikely. Among other causes, smoking without a filter has also been linked to tonsil stones.

  • Paining tonsils
  • Itchy throat accompanied by a sensation of foreign object in the throat
  • Red sore and swollen tonsils which make swallowing difficult
  • Persistent cough, pain in the throat and fever, in some cases
  • Bad breath
  • Discomfort
  • Tonsil stones are mostly self-eliminating unless accompanied by a major health condition.
  • Many times, coughing does dispel some of these white spots on the tonsils.
  • Some people squeeze or scrape out these stones using their fingers, this is effective but not highly recommended. Because it is very unhygienic and secondly, you could end up infecting your throat, with the dirt in your nails.
  • Many people do squeeze out these stones using ear buds; it is best to moisten these with water, to prevent the strands of cotton from sticking to your throat. This is effective only in cases of stones that are going to dislodge anyway.
  • In some cases the stones are pretty big and deeply embedded, these can only be removed by a dentist.
  • Gargling with salt water can also help remove these white spots on the tonsils.
If you have Painful Tonsil Stones...

...there is a high possibility of tonsillitis. A bacterium called Streptococcus pyogenes is responsible for causing tonsillitis. Along with white spots on tonsils, a person also experiences:
  • Stomach ache
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of voice
  • Fever
  • Difficulty in swallowing
If tonsillitis is caused by a virus it can be treated with simple home remedies whereas, if it is caused by the above mentioned bacterium, the health care provider will prescribe a course of antibiotics. Tonsillitis caused by the Streptococcus bacterium can be treated with penicillin however, if the person is allergic to penicillin, the doctor may suggest an alternative antibiotic medication.

*Please note that you cannot identify if the tonsil stones are due to viral infection or bacterial infection. It has to be done by your dentist by taking the sample of the spots on a cotton swab and doing specific laboratory test.

Points to Remember

Unfortunately, the exact cause of tonsil stones is yet unknown and hence there are no definite ways to prevent this problem. However, there are some ways, which can be beneficial to deal with it and they are:
  • If a person experiences recurrent tonsil stones it is better to undergo tonsillectomy to prevent further infections and tonsil stones. It is a surgical procedure carried out to remove the tonsils.
  • Secondly, laser treatment is also a good option to prevent recurrent formation of tonsil stones.
Now that you know what these white spots are, you need not worry. Many people don't talk about having this problem because of the social stigma attached to bad breath but, it is a fairly common problem among children and adults. It is best not to scrape out the stones and let them fall out themselves to prevent further complications. Till then keep gargling with salt water and consume lots of warm fluids.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only and does not, in any way, intend to replace the advice of a medical expert.