Recently we had a houseguest who shared that she had an annoying tonsil stone. I had never heard of such a thing. Of course, Dinner Table Doctor knows all about them and I made him explain in great detail.
Tonsil stones (or tonsilloliths if you want to impress people at a party) are bits of calcified material that can form in the crevasses of your tonsils. DTD doesn’t get many patients coming in for help with this issue. He thinks it’s because most people who get them are aware of what they are and their moms or grandmas tell them what to do! I suspect this is common for a whole bunch of conditions, but that’s another post.
Apparently a lot of people have these. Basically bits of bacteria and debris can get stuck in your tonsils and bond together and harden. (If you Google it you will see some crazy pictures) Symptoms can include feeling like something is stuck in your throat, bad breath, coughing, ear pain, a sore throat and tonsil swelling. Typically those afflicted use grandma’s home remedy of gargling or gently picking out the stone. Sometimes a visit to the doctor is necessary for an antibiotic or, rarely, surgery.
I guess I never heard of these because, like many people, I had my tonsils removed at a very young age. This used to be a much more common surgery. According to Up To Date the estimated number of tonsillectomies performed in children under the age of 15 in the US declined from approximately 970,000 in 1965 to approximately 289,000 in 2010.
I was only about four or five years old when I had my tonsils removed, and I have a vague memory of being in a hospital and eating a boatload of ice cream at home afterwards. I don’t remember being in pain, and I suspect this is why I have developed a fondness for ice cream and anesthesia. Unfortunately I’m lactose intolerant (see my post Blame it on the Mac-N-Cheese) and I can’t just get anesthesia whenever I want. There’s the rub…to have an extreme fondness for things that are elusive. Sometimes I break down and eat ice cream and suffer the consequences, but I can only fantasize about having a minor medical procedure that requires anesthesia. Whenever a friend tells me they’re having a colonoscopy or dental work or a biopsy, I always point out the bright side to them – they get some anesthesia – and I’m maybe just a little jealous.
ANYWAY, tonsil stones don’t usually require any anesthesia, but ice cream might help ease any discomfort. I find that one of the two work for most problems! DTD completely disagrees, by the way. Have you heard of or had tonsil stones? Let me know in the comments.