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Are tonsil stones contagious? Also known as tonsilliths or tonsilloliths, these are deposits that can form on the surface of the tonsils. Generally, tonsil stones are not contagious, but the underlying condition causing them can be.
Below, we’ll go into more detail on this health topic to answer whether or not tonsil stones are contagious, including answering “are tonsil stones contagious through kissing.” We’ll also tell you more about the condition itself and some potential natural remedies that may help if you’re dealing with them.
What Are Tonsil Stones?
Your tonsils are those flesh, oval pads that you might see at the back of your throat. You have a tonsil on each side. If you’re dealing with tonsil infection, tonsillitis symptoms can include swollen, tender lymph nodes on your neck and enlarged tonsils. Also, symptoms of tonsillitis include sore throat and problems swallowing.
Viruses often cause acute tonsillitis, but bacterial infections with different types of bacteria can also lead to the condition. An infected person may be able to pass on the illnesses that cause tonsillitis.
A tonsil stone is a calcified mass forming on your palatine tonsils. There are three subtypes of tonsils.
Palatine tonsils are on the side of your throat. The pharyngeal tonsils are at the back of your throat, and your lingual tonsil is at the back of your tongue or its base.
What we actually call our tonsils are more precisely the palatine tonsils. Those are the ones we described above that you can see at the back of your mouth or the top of your throat.
Certain issues can lead to tonsil-related symptoms and problems, including viral infection, bacterial tonsillitis, strep throat, and even the effects of the Epstein-Barr virus.
Tonsil stones are hard, white, or yellow formations that are on or within your tonsils. You may have them and not notice them, but they can vary quite a bit. For example, a tonsil stone may be as small as a piece of rice or as large as a grape.
Some people get worried, thinking tonsil stones are a type of growth and potentially cancerous one, but the reality is they’re mostly harmless. They can become more problematic if they grow more prominent, and they can lead to foul odors.
The Causes of Tonsil Stones
Debris can get trapped in your tonsils because they’re made up of tunnels and pits. These crevices are called tonsil crypts. Some things that can get into the pockets include mucus, saliva, food, and dead cells. Bacteria and fungi then feed on what builds up in there, which is what causes the odor.
The debris eventually hardens, creating the stones.
You can have just one of these hard stones or many.
Specific causes of stones in your tonsils include:
- Large tonsils
- Chronic tonsillitis, which is inflamed tonsils or recurrent tonsillitis
- Poor dental hygiene
- Chronic sinus issues
You may not be able to see that you have tonsil stones, but you could notice the following symptoms:
- Bad breath—noticing a bad smell is one of the only symptoms many people experience with stones in their tonsils
- Sore throat
- Painful swallowing
- Chronic cough
- Swollen tonsils
- Ear pain
- White or yellow debris visible on the tonsil
If you have smaller stones, which are more common, you may not have any symptoms.
Severe symptoms indicating you should go to a doctor and your issue may be more serious than a tonsil stone include:
- Very red or inflamed tonsils, especially when one side looks different from the other
- Pus coming from your tonsils
- Pain, especially on one side more so than the other
- Sore throat that you have had for more than a month
- Breathing problems
- Problems swallowing
- Persistently swollen lymph nodes
Are Tonsil Stones Contagious?
To go back to our original questions, are tonsil stones contagious? The answer is no; tonsil stones generally aren’t contagious. They’re made up of something called biofilm. Biofilm in your mouth is a combination of fungi and bacteria that interacts with your mouth’s natural chemistry. The biofilm then attaches to a moist surface.
With tonsil stones, the material can get hardened in your tonsils. Plaque is another example of a biofilm.
Are tonsil stones contagious through kissing? Again, the answer is no.
However, if you have a bacterial sinus infection or something acute or an infectious disease contributing to your tonsil stones, that underlying condition could be contagious, but the stone itself isn’t.
Can You Prevent Tonsil Stones?
Often people who get tonsil stones have them pretty regularly, but there are things you can do to prevent them.
Good oral hygiene is critical. Make sure you’re always cleaning the back of your tongue when you brush your teeth. Stop smoking if you do, and gargle with salt water regularly. Staying hydrated with plenty of water can also help prevent tonsil stones.
How to Remove Tonsil Stones
If you have tonsil stones, you may be able to remove them, but you should consult with a doctor to make sure it’s not a more serious issue first.
Most are harmless, but you may want to remove them if they’re uncomfortable or they’re creating an unpleasant odor.
- Gargling with salt water regularly is one of the best ways to dislodge a tonsil stone, and it can beneficially alter your mouth chemistry. Saltwater eliminates odor as well. All you have to do is put ½ teaspoon of salt in warm water and gargle vigorously.
- If you cough, it can help you with the manual removal of the stone.
- There are medical treatments called laser tonsil cryptolysis, which eliminates the areas where tonsil stones become lodged and can be an effective treatment.
- There’s also a medical procedure called coblation cryptolysis, where radio waves turn the salt solution into charged ions. The charged ions then cut through tonsil crypt tissue. This is an outpatient procedure.
- Antibiotic treatment may be a way to manage tonsil stones because they can reduce the bacteria leading to their development and growth.
- Depending on the underlying cause of your issues, such as throat pain, a doctor might recommend the removal of tonsils.
Natural Remedies for Tonsil Stones
Gargling with warm salt water is one natural remedy for tonsil stones.
- Dilute apple cider vinegar with water and gargle. Vinegar is high in acid, so it may be able to break down the stones on your tonsils.
- Garlic is good for combating oral bacteria infection and growth.
- If you can see the stone, you may be able to gently press on the tonsil with a cotton swab to remove it. Do this very gently, because you don’t want to great an infection. Afterward, you should gargle with salt water right away. Don’t try to remove it yourself unless the tonsil stone is small and very reachable, and visible.
- Some people have luck removing their tonsil stones with essential oils—particularly those with antibacterial or anti-inflammatory properties, like myrrh or thieves. You can dilute the oil in a carrier oil and then put a drop or two on your toothbrush before brushing the stones.
- Chewing carrots can help your mouth increase its saliva production, promoting more natural antibacterial processes that may help with the stones.
- Having yogurt could be beneficial because it has probiotics that may promote more balanced mouth chemistry.
Final Thoughts—Are Tonsil Stones Contagious?
To wrap up, are tonsil stones contagious? No they aren’t infectious, even through kissing or transmission by saliva, person to person.
They are preventable, and there are some things you can do as home remedies to get rid of them. Taking good care of your mouth is essential to prevent them from developing.
If you do have tonsil stones, consider visiting your doctor or dentist to get medical attention and make sure that’s truly the issue and rule out any other possible underlying causes.