Ever experience a sore throat but think there could be more to it than having strep throat or tonsillitis? Maybe you’ve noticed your tonsils are swollen or you see something strange at the back of your throat. Pair those symptoms with the sensation of something stuck in your throat and chances are you may have tonsil stones. So what are they, exactly?

“Formally known as tonsilloliths, the stones consist of mucus, dead cells and other debris that collect in the deep pockets of the tonsils and gradually condense into small, light-colored globs,” The New York Times explains. What causes these lumps of calcified material to appear is generally unknown, but medical professionals believe bacteria in the mouth may have something to do with their formation.

The good news is that a lot of the time, tonsil stones don’t require any treatment. They often don’t produce any symptoms, and some are small enough that they can be removed with a finger or the tip of your tongue. Larger stones, however, may require antibiotics or surgery, so it’s important to visit your doctor if you think you might have them.

Wikimedia Commons

Here are six possible symptoms to watch for when it comes to tonsil stones:

1. Bad Breath

Tonsil stones are known for attracting bacteria and giving off a putrid smell, causing halitosis, or really bad breath.

3. Swollen Tonsils

Wikipedia

Larger tonsilloliths often go hand-in-hand with tonsil infection, causing inflammation.

4. Difficulty Swallowing

Wikipedia

Swelling and larger stones may make it difficult for you to swallow depending on where they’re located.

6. White Debris

Wikipedia

Tonsil stones are solid, white lumps that can be seen at the back of the throat. Some even have a similar appearance to teeth.

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