A common question we get on this site is:
“do tonsil stones go away if you remove your tonsils?”
If you’ve asked this question yourself then keep reading and you’ll find the answer you’re looking for.
Many people have had tonsil stones for years but never knew what they were. These bothersome stones have a yellow or white appearance and they can either be hard or soft in texture.
How Do You Get Tonsil Stones?
They form deep inside the pockets of your tonsils when bacteria, mucus, dead cells, and other debris calcify or harden. Some people don’t even know they have them until they start coughing them up.
Just imagine if you cough up one of these nasty things at the wrong time like when you’re on a date or if you were speaking in front of a lot of people?
Tonsil stones can be your worst nightmare. Especially if you get really big ones that cause you to choke on them. Even the stones small in size can cause irritating problems like making you feel as if you have something stuck in the back of your throat. This sensation of having something stuck in your throat 24/7 is definitely not pleasant.
Out of all the tonsil stone symptoms the awful smell they cause your mouth to have is the worst. The bad breath alone is enough to make anyone feel self conscious and awkward.
People who get these smelly white balls in their throat often are surprised when they go to the doctor for answers and the doctor tells them “never heard of it.”
This is shocking since these little smelly balls can cause some major problems like a tumor if they keep reoccurring.
This is one of the main reasons why people who are aware they have them want to know how to prevent tonsil stones from coming back once they’re removed.
One of the common answers they get to this question is – the only way to get rid of tonsil stones for good is to get a tonsillectomy and get your tonsils removed.
Is this true? Do tonsil stones go away for good if you remove your tonsils? Is this a guaranteed?
No it’s not a guarantee.
There are people who get a tonsillectomy done and still get tonsil stones even after their entire tonsils were taken out. Surgically removing your tonsils should be a last resort when everything else doesn’t work.
However, let’s really find out if tonsillectomy is the guaranteed way to rid yourself of these nasty stones once and for all.
Do Tonsil Stones Go Away if You Remove Your Tonsils?
However, will taking out your tonsils will really stop tonsil stones from returning? Are there any other alternatives to surgery that will help prevent the return of these stones?
In this article we’ll cover some of these questions so you can decide for yourself if you really want to go through with having a tonsillectomy to get those nasty little buggers out your life for good.
What Are Your Tonsils Anyway?
Your tonsils consist of 2 large soft tissues that protrude on each side of the back of your throat in the upper area known as the orapharynx. There are crevices running through these tonsils known as crypts (where tonsil stones form).
These two tissue masses right at the back of your throat are called the Palatine tonsils and they are bigger in size compared to your other tonsils which include:
- Pharyngeal tonsil or commonly called Adenoids – located directly behind the nose.
- Gerlach’s tonsils – located at the opening between the middle ear and the nasopharynx (area where your nose meets the rare end of your throat).
- The lingual tonsils – located at the base of your tongue.
Your Palatine tonsils are the tonsils that tonsillectomy removes. They are part of your lymphatic system, which will help protect you from infections by stopping bacteria from entering your body through your throat. More on this later on.
Click the picture to enlarge
Tonsillectomy for Tonsil Stones
Tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure that involves cutting out the tonsils completely. This procedure used to be performed a lot on young children with tonsillitis before antibiotics were introduced (more on this later on in this article).
If you think tonsil stones are bad, undergoing surgery to get your tonsils removed can be one of the most painful experiences in your life.
The actual surgery itself isn’t so bad it’s the recovery process that makes tonsillectomy a difficult procedure to deal with.
The average cost of a tonsillectomy will vary from state to state. However, if you don’t have any insurance you can expect to pay at least $5,000… but if you have good health insurance the cost of most tonsillectomies will be covered.
The traditional tonsillectomy involves removing the tonsils using a scalpel to dissect it. There are other forms of tonsillectomy such as:
Laser Cryptolysis – Also known as laser tonsillectomy, this procedure involves taking out only a portion of your tonsil rather than your entire tonsil getting removed.
With laser cryptolysis just the surface area of your tonsil crypts where the stones often grow and hide will be targeted.
Intracapsular Tonsillectomy – Where a full tonsillectomy will remove your entire tonsil, the intracapsular procedure will only take out around 90% of your tonsil using a tool called a microdebrider.
The main goal of this technique is to remove as much as the tonsils as possible without causing as much pain, bleeding, and other complications the traditional tonsillectomy is known for.
The 10% of the tonsil left behind after this surgery technique is performed is called the capsule, which is a thin layer of outer tonsil tissue that will keep the muscles of your throat from getting exposed.
This protection of your throat muscles thanks to the capsule left behind is what causes there to be less pain and bleeding.
Coblation Tonsillectomy – This procedure involves using a device that uses a low temperature radiofrequency energy with saline to produce a plasma field that dissolves the tonsil tissues away.
Regardless of what form of tonsillectomy is performed you won’t be awake during the operation as you will be placed under general anesthesia.
What to Consider?
It’s definitely important for you to consider the risks and benefits associated with surgically removing your tonsils. Some things you should consider before undergoing this procedure include:
- how much sleep will you get after the surgery?
- how much time will I miss from work or other activities after the surgery?
- will my insurance cover the costs of the surgery?
- will I finally get rid of tonsil stones for good!
- will I not have to worry about annoying tonsil stones symptoms like bad breath (halitosis) anymore!
- will taking out my tonsils really stop the tonsil stones from coming back in the future?
As you can see there are a number of things to consider before making a final decision to get a tonsillectomy to remove your tonsils in the hopes of being free from tonsil stones forever.
You need to get approved by a doctor for surgery to have your tonsils removed. However, some doctors won’t recommend getting a tonsillectomy unless you have a more serious problem with your tonsils.
For some reason many doctors don’t feel tonsil stones are a serious enough issue to have your tonsils removed. Swollen tonsils, a tonsil infection, and tonsil cancer are 3 of the main reasons most doctors will approve a patient to get a tonsillectomy performed.
However, about 80% of all tonsillectomy procedures done today are for obstructive sleep problems or also known as OSA (obstructive sleep apnea syndrome).
Before the day of surgery you will be asked not to drink or eat anything to avoid you throwing up while the operation is taking place. You will also be advised not to take any kind of aspirin prior to the surgery.
The Day of The Surgery
The day of your surgery the doctors will knock you out with anesthesia so you won’t feel any pain. If you know you’re prone to being nauseous make sure you let your anesthesiologist know so that you can avoid throwing up after the surgery is over.
The actual tonsillectomy procedure will take about 20 minutes or longer depending on the surgeon. Some people feel a little dizzyness, earache, or soreness in their throat once they awaken after the surgery is over.
The pain you experience right after the operation during the first day may surprise you because it is not very intense. However, once the steroids they injected into you during the operation wears off you will feel pain you have never felt before.
After the first day expect the pain to really start intensifying (primarily in your throat area). Soon the pain will move to other areas like your ears. Eventually the pain will be so severe it will make you not want to even move.
Your doctor will most likely give you anti-nausea meds like Phenergan to prevent you from constantly throwing up due to motion sickness.
You can actually throw up the scab on your tonsil wound (making the pain even worse) and if you keep throwing up you’ll find yourself right back in the ER due to dehydration, which is why you’ll be advised to drink a lot of fluids (mainly water).
However, after the surgery it will be hard for you to keep anything down… even liquids. So make sure to ask for transdermal Phenergan which are anti-nausea meds that will soak through your skin using an adhesive patch.
Potential Risks or Complications of Surgery (Tonsillectomy)
After your tonsillectomy you will be in a lot of pain for at least 2 weeks to the point where you don’t want to do anything.
So expect to not be at full strength for around 14 days and cancel any plans you had in this time period that involved moving around. By the 10th day the pain starts to get a little better for some people.
Some potential risks or complications after taking out your tonsils via tonsillectomy include:
- Can’t swallow anything for around 14 days (not even liquids like water)
- There have been cases where a piece of the tonsil is left behind once the surgery was over which causes the tonsils to regrow (which means tonsil stones can return).
- Not sure why but even if the tonsillectomy is successfully completed the stones can still grow back.
- Nausea (motion sickness)
- Really bad stomach pains because you can’t eat real food
- Losing a lot of weight because you can’t eat normal foods.
- Vomiting (throwing up)
- The worst pain you ever imagined (especially when you first wake up in the morning).
- Bad taste in your mouth due to tonsil scabs.
- Bleeding – a little bleeding is okay, but when you start seeing a lot of bright red blood from your nose or mouth you should go back to the ER.
- Issues breathing – it is normal during the first week after surgery to have some minor breathing problems but if you are having real problems breathing you need to go back to the ER.
- Permanent change in voice.
- Nasal regurgitation of food.
- Numbness sensation in your tongue.
- Nasal Congestion or Nasal drainage
- Bad breath – during the recovery period you might notice your breath smells bad due to the scab on your throat where the tonsils used to be.
Tips for Recovering After Tonsillectomy
- Rest is your best friend during this time. Try to stay as relaxed as much as you can during the recovery process. No strenuous activities such as exercising, going to work, bending over, etc. The less you move the better. It also helps if you can keep the muscles in your neck relaxed.
- Cold foods can help a lot. Warm food such as soup can really make the pain worse.
- Use ice packs. Placing an ice pack on your neck can definitely help.
- Painkillers can help. Be sure to ask your doctor for painkillers in both tablet and liquid form just in case you can’t swallow the pills. If you do get painkillers in pill form and you can’t swallow them try mixing it up with some yogurt or pudding and then swallowing it so it goes down easier and causes less painful.
- Keep your throat moisturized at all times. You have to keep your throat moisturized so it can heal properly.
- Use liquid lidocaine. Ask your doctor to give you some liquid lidocaine to gargle
- A lot of rest.
- You have to stay hydrated. Even though it may be hard to drink water because it hurts so bad, you should still try to drink as much water as you can (ice water if you can) because the pain will hurt even more when your mouth is dry. One thing you can try is using Cloraseptic numbing spray. There’s also a lollipop you can ask your doctor or pharmacist for to help numb the pain in your throat a little.
- Try eating some cold jello. Might help your throat depending on how bad the pain is.
- Say no to dairy. They used to tell people (especially kids) to eat ice cream after they got their tonsils removed. However, eating or drinking dairy products will cause excessive mucus to build up and make you want to clear your throat, which will cause more pain. Instead of ice cream try eating popsicles.
- Try not to laugh. Seriously, it will increase the intensity of the pain.
- Try not to cough to avoid worsening the pain.
- Try not to clear your throat to avoid worsening the pain.
- Try not to sneeze to avoid worsening the pain.
- Try not to talk a lot to avoid worsening the pain.
- Try laying down flat on your back when you go to sleep.
- Have someone there with you to help get you through the recovery phase. Getting through this is tough to do on your own so find someone to help you until you return back to your old self.
What About Foods to Eat?
Stay away from spicy foods or foods that have a high acidity level. Crunchy or hard foods should most definitely be avoided at all cost until you fully recover.
Some food items that are a good idea to eat right after surgery include:
- Soft baby foods.
- Cold pureed soups like Vichyssoise or Gazpacho.
- Boiled eggs by the 10th day if you can tolerate it.
Why You Shouldn’t Remove Your Tonsils
Removing your tonsils can definitely be an extremely painful experience.
But believe it or not there are other more serious reasons why you shouldn’t be so quick to remove them:
Your tonsils (mainly the palatine tonsils which tonsillectomy removes) are a part of your lymphatic system which is responsible for important functions of your body’s immune system as well as a lot of other important tasks your body needs. Some of these responsibilities include:
- Collecting and transferring fluid to different areas of the body including the blood stream.
- Transferring vital enzymes and hormones and digested fats to your bloodstream.
- Helps your body build upa strong immunity against viruses, diseases, and bacteria that pose a threat to your body.
Think of your tonsils as your gatekeepers or first line of defense against harmful bacteria trying to pass through your throat via inhaling or consuming them.
Your tonsils also produces B cells that makes bacteria killing antibodies. These antibodies terminate bacteria on contact saving you from health issues like the common cold or pneumonia.
As you can see there is more than enough reasons you should try to find other ways to get rid of your tonsils for good and keep your tonsils where they’re at so they can keep doing their job protecting you.
Doctors these days will always recommend tonsillectomy as the last resort thanks to the arrival of antibiotics to treat reoccurring tonsil infections. Back in the day before antibiotics tonsillectomy was being used for many years as the main treatment against reoccurring tonsillitis in young children between the ages of 2 and 10.
During these young years of a child’s life their tonsils were more vulnerable to experiencing frequent tonsil infections. Once a child reaches eleven years old their tonsils will start shrinking and the chances of them getting infected is greatly reduced.
Now that antibiotics are here doctors recognize the importance of using them as the firsrt treatment option for reoccuring tonsil infections and leaving the tonsils where they’re supposed to be as several studies show kids who didn’t have their tonsils removed experienced less visits to the doctor for throat infections and fevers.
Lastly, for some people the removal of their tonsils didn’t stop the tonsil stones from returning. This may be due to the grooves or impressions left behind once the tonsils were taken out. In some cases these impressions can still give the stones an area to grow.
So Is Tonsillectomy for Tonsil Stones Worth It?
Well is it all worth it? Do tonsil stones go away for good if you remove your tonsils?
If you feel your tonsil stones will be gone forever and you can put up with 2 weeks of total torture due to intense pain then yes it may be worth a try.
If you feel tonsillectomy is your answer to a lifetime of good breath and not having to worry any longer about tonsil stones then sure go for it.
Just remember though there are other less extreme tonsil stone removal methods that can remove tonsil stones permanently as well. Also, remember the benefit of keeping your tonsils and beating these stones without compromising your immune system.
Finally, you should also keep in mind that removing your tonsils doesn’t always guarantee that the stones won’t come back at some point down the line. But if you feel it is a risk you’re willing to take for yourself then why not?