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The short answer is yes. In fact, you may not even know that you have tonsil stones until you cough one up.
Your tonsils are two pads of tissue, one on either side of the back of your throat. They are part of your immune system, containing white blood cells and antibodies to fight infection. The surface of your tonsils is irregular.
Tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths, are bits of food or debris that collect in the crevices of your tonsils and harden or calcify. They are typically white or light yellow, and some people can see them when examining their tonsils.
A 2013 study of 150 CT scans concluded that about 25 percent of the general population might have tonsil stones, but that very few cases result in any consequences that would require specific treatment.
If a tonsil stone is not well seated where it has developed, the vibration of a heavy cough might dislodge it into your mouth. Tonsil stones often work their way out even without a cough.
Although many people have no signs indicating they have tonsil stones, common symptoms include:
The bad breath comes from the bacteria that collects on the tonsil stones.
Some people try to dislodge tonsil stones with a cotton swab. Because the tonsils are delicate, this has the possibility of causing bleeding and infection.
Other home remedies include gargling with diluted apple cider vinegar, rinsing with salt water, and chewing carrots to increase saliva in your mouth and the production of natural antibacterial processes.
If you are experiencing a severe and chronic case of tonsil stones and other treatments have not been effective, your healthcare provider might recommend a tonsillectomy which is a surgical procedure that removes the tonsils.
The most important action you can take to try to prevent tonsil stones is practicing good oral hygiene. By properly brushing your teeth and tongue, flossing, and using an alcohol-free mouthwash, you can lower the amount of bacteria in your mouth, which may have an impact on tonsil stone development.
There are a number of signs that could indicate you have tonsil stones, including:
- white bumps on your tonsils
- chronically red and irritated tonsils
- bad breath, even after you have brushed, flossed, and rinsed
While energetic coughing may help dislodge your tonsil stones, this method isn’t foolproof. If you feel that tonsils stones are an irritant you no longer want, and if they do not go away on their own, there are a number of ways you might take action, including a tonsillectomy.