Are tonsil stones contagious? Tonsil stones are common and generally harmless. However, many people are still wondering if a person who has them can infect other people. In this article, you’ll find out if tonsil stones are contagious and what you can do to get rid of them for good.
- 1 What Are Tonsil Stones?
- 2 So Are Tonsil Stones Contagious or Dangerous?
- 3 Treatments for Tonsil Stones
- 3.1 Dislodge the stones using blunt objects
- 3.2 Flush them out using an oral irrigator
- 3.3 Gargle with warm salt water
- 3.4 Increase your fluid intake
- 3.5 Change your diet and lifestyle
- 3.6 Try suctioning them
- 3.7 Gargle with diluted apple cider vinegar
- 3.8 Consider using oral care probiotics
- 3.9 Prevent your mouth from drying
- 3.10 Tonsillectomy
- 3.11 Coblation Tonsil Cryptolysis
- 3.12 Laser cryptolysis
- 3.13 Conclusion
What Are Tonsil Stones?
Your tonsils, which are located on both sides of the back of your throat, serve as guards to protect your guts and lungs from disease-causing germs. They also capture certain mouth materials that may contain white blood cells (which fight infection), germs, food particles, secretions, and proteins from your mouth’s surface.
Tonsil stones, also called tonsilloliths, happen when these materials trapped in the crevices of the tonsils cluster and harden. They stink because of the germs that feed on them. They’re usually whitish or yellowish, but they can have a different color depending on the foods and drinks you consume.
Small tonsil stones don’t usually produce any symptoms. People unintentionally discover them after coughing them up. Larger ones may cause a sore throat, swollen tonsils, swallowing difficulties, and extremely bad breath.
Tonsil stones are common in people who have repeated bouts of tonsillitis, large tonsils, and poor dental hygiene.
You may also want to check out our detailed article on how to prevent tonsil stones.
So Are Tonsil Stones Contagious or Dangerous?
Tonsil stones are not contagious, according to Dr. Ed Friedlander, a board-certified clinical pathologist. Most doctors don’t even prescribe anything for tonsil stones. However, the bacteria and viruses that feed on these stones could be contagious.
The only way to infect another person with these viruses and bacteria is through direct contact. Meaning, if you’re the one infected, you have to touch the tonsil stones with your fingers then use the same fingers to touch the tonsils of another person. Before you could even do that, you’ve already stimulated that person’s gag reflex.
Bottom line: The chances of transmitting viruses and bacteria from tonsil stones through direct contact are slim.
How about airborne transmission?
The risk of transmitting tonsil stone viruses through air is no greater than other types of viruses. It also highly depends if the virus goes into the mouth of another person.
Some people fear that long and intense kissing could cause them to develop tonsil stones. This could be possible since the activity allows people to exchange saliva and other mouth debris, but you don’t have to worry. Removing the stones through deep kissing is very unlikely.
While the possibility of catching tonsil stone germs is minimal, it’s still a good idea to prevent them from forming. If you’re experiencing too much discomfort, there are different non-drastic measures you could use to remove the stones. Here are some of them:
Treatments for Tonsil Stones
The proper treatment for tonsil stones will depend on their size and ability to affect your health negatively. In general, you don’t need to do anything at all, especially if they don’t cause any worrying symptoms.
Dislodge the stones using blunt objects
People commonly use a q-tip, bobby pin (bent), or even their finger to dislodge tonsil stones. The process is quite simple. Use a pen light or flashlight to illuminate your mouth. Then gently squeeze out the stone until removed. If that doesn’t work, you can use a back-and-forth motion or apply pressure at different positions.
This method might sound simple, but it’s actually a little tricky. It may cause you to gag a lot. If the stones are located deep within the pockets of your tonsils, it’s best to let an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor remove them manually.
Caveat: Always use a gentle pressure on your tonsils because they’re delicate and could bleed easily.
Flush them out using an oral irrigator
An oral irrigator, also called water flosser and water jet, is a device that cleans between the teeth and gum line using pressurized water through a hose and nozzle. A pulsed flow irrigator is the most common type of oral irrigator. Some of the best brands out there are Waterpik, Panasonic, and Philips.
Caveat: Since you’re going to use it for your tonsils, make sure to use the lowest setting at the beginning. A strong water pressure may pierce or burst your tonsils.
Gargle with warm salt water
If your tonsil stones are secondary to tonsilitis, gargling with warm salt water will help reduce the pain and swelling. It will also disinfect your mouth and eliminate bad breath caused by tonsil stones.
Simply dissolve ½ to 1 teaspoon of table salt to a glass of warm water. Stir then gargle for 60 seconds. Repeat this procedure at least twice a day.
Increase your fluid intake
Some people who have flu or cold may form tonsil stones. When you have a cold or flu, the yellowish or greenish secretions from your nasal passages will drip down at the back of your throat (postnasal drip). These sticky secretions could end up in the crevices of your tonsils, where they’ll eventually harden.
One way to thin out the secretions is to drink plenty of water. This will keep your nasal passages clean and moist. If you don’t like plain water, you could try teas and tamarind juice. Tamarind is good for you because it contains properties that fight off different bacteria, like Staphylococcus aureus, which sometimes cause tonsillitis. 
It’s easy to make tamarind juice. Just mix tamarind powder and warm water. Add a few drops of lime, mint, and tamarind flesh (optional). Chill then drink.
Change your diet and lifestyle
If you smoke or drink alcholic beverages, you’re more likely to have tonsil stones. Why? Smoking, for instance, could cause your mouth and throat to become dry, which will eventually lead to tonsil stone formation.
What you have been eating may be another reason. One of the common culprits is dairy products because they contain calcium. Tonsil stones are composed mostly of calcium and traces of other minerals, like magnesium, ammonia, and phosphorus.
You could still eat dairy-based products, but make sure to eat them in moderation. Try to include more fruits (cucumber), vegetables (celery and onion), and mushrooms in your meals.
Try suctioning them
A clean medicine dropper is perfect for this purpose. The suction produced by the medicine dropper will help dislodge the stones from the tonsils naturally. If you don’t have a medicine dropper, you could also use a clean syringe (without the needles), nasal aspirator, or bulb syringe.
Gargle with diluted apple cider vinegar
Some people believe that the acid in apple cider vinegar will dissolve and shrink the stones trapped in the tonsils. To start, combine 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of warm water. Gargle for 1 to 2 minutes. Do this procedure three times a day.
A good alternative to apple cider vinegar is lemon juice. Mix 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, 8 ounces of warm water, and a pinch of sea salt. Gargle for 1 to 2 minutes.
Consider using oral care probiotics
We all know probiotics are good for our digestion, but it seems that newer types could do more than that. Nowadays, there are probiotic mouthwashes that contain Streptococcus salivarius bacteria, specifically the K12 and M18 strains, which supposedly help fight common oral health problems.
According to a Huffington Post article, BLIS (bacteriocin-like-inhibitory substances) K12 support a healthy immune system while preventing the increase of harmful mouth bacteria that cause bad breath, tonsil stones, and gum diseases.  When used on a regular basis, oral probiotics could be highly effective.
Prevent your mouth from drying
Anaerobic bacteria survive well in an environment without oxygen. Saliva is rich in oxygen and antibacterial properties. If your mouth is dry, these bacteria are able to grow and thrive, which in turn could lead to the formation of bad breath and tonsil stones.
What’s the best way to treat a dry mouth?
It depends on the root cause, which your dentist could help you identify. One reason people experience dry mouth is due to the meds they’re taking. Some of these medications are for allergies (antihistamines), depression, Parkinson’s disease, diarrhea, and pain. A doctor may resolve this by changing the medication or adjusting the dosage.
Artificial saliva products are available in liquid and aerosol forms. Ask your doctor about the best brands to buy. Look for products that have the ADA Seal to ensure you’re buying something safe and effective.
Don’t want to spend much? Chew your food carefully. This will help stimulate your glands to produce more saliva.
If conservative treatments don’t work for you, talk to your doctor immediately to discuss other ways to remove tonsil stones. Medical treatments may include tonsillectomy, coblation cryptolysis, and laser cryptolysis. Invasive medical procedures should be your last resort. Consider them if any of these things are present:
- Inflamed tonsils
- Chronic bad breath
- Persistent formation of tonsil stones
- Exceedingly large stones that negatively affect your daily activities, like swallowing and sleeping
Tonsillectomy is a popular surgical procedure to prevent recurrence of tonsil stones. This procedure may remove your tonsils either partially or completely. Between the two, partial tonsillectomy allows faster recovery and lesser pain. However, it will not make tonsil stones go away for good.
Some of the risks involved with tonsillectomy:
- Your voice may change permanently.
- Foods or drinks may taste a little different after surgery.
- You’ll experience different body discomforts, like stiff neck, headache, and throat pain.
Recovery time will usually take around two weeks for children 12 years or younger, while some adults may take a month or more to recover completely from tonsillectomy.
Coblation Tonsil Cryptolysis
Coblation tonsil cryptolysis is an FDA-approved procedure that could markedly decrease, or even eliminate, tonsil stones in just one session.  The great thing about it is you don’t have to be under sedation. A surgeon will only use a local anesthesia, so you can be awake the whole time if you meet certain criteria (e.g. controllable gagging and tonsils are easy to see).
Other benefits of coblation tonsil cryptolysis:
- Recovery time takes only a few days. After a week, you can go back to your usual diet and daily activities.
- Unlike laser cryptolysis, this uses radio frequency energy, so there’s no risk of blindness and mouth or facial burns.
- It treats the whole surface of the tonsils fast.
The only downside of coblation tonsil cryptolysis is you may have to undergo multiple sessions if you have large tonsils in order for it to be effective.
Laser cryptolysis is an in-office procedure that uses CO2 (carbon dioxide) or diode laser. Like in coblation tonsil cryptolysis, a surgeon uses local anesthesia during the procedure. One or two sessions of laser cryptolysis have shown to be effective. However, this procedure is only appropriate if only a few spots need to be treated. If it involves the whole tonsil surface, coblation cryptolysis is used.
The benefits of laser cryptolysis:
There’s reduced post-operative bleeding and pain (when compared to tonsillectomy).
- It allows faster recovery compared to traditional tonsillectomy. Some patients may miss up to two days of work. 
- There are minimal complications associated with this medical procedure.
To sum it up, tonsil stones by themselves are not contagious. It’s the bacteria and viruses that feed on them that you should be worried about. The chances of an infected person to pass on these potentially harmful germs through air, direct contact, or deep kissing are minimal.
To prevent tonsil stones from always coming back, it’s important to take precautionary steps. One of these important preventive steps is to maintain a good oral hygiene. This will free your mouth of particles that would eventually end up in your tonsil pits, where they are broken down and cause stones to develop.
Image Source: wikipedia.org