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In those whose tonsils are large, however, the particles can lodge in the deep crypts, where they continue to grow.
The enlarging lumps are called calculi of the tonsil, or tonsilloliths (tonsil stones). Microscopic studies of these tonsilloliths have shown them to contain a combination of food particles, bacteria, oral debris, and white blood cells in a concentrically laminated pattern — rather like a pearl.
My daughter has very large tonsils with deep crevices.
She has large numbers of small, hard lumps that she scrapes out. The tonsils are sentinels, standing guard at the back of the throat to protect the delicate tissues of our lungs and intestines from foreign invaders.
Her doctor said they were food particles that had gotten stuck. They are part of a ring of defenders, Waldeyer’s Ring (which includes the tonsils, adenoids, and other lymphoid tissue), encircling the back of the throat as an important line of defense.
The tonsils and adenoids are largest during childhood; they are front-line guardians while the body’s more sophisticated internal immune system learns and develops.
The aftermath of this battle leaves the crevices of the tonsil strewn with hardened remains.
We didn’t understand, then, that the tonsils purposely accept the infections to prevent the organisms from traveling deeper, and to show the invaders to the developing immune system to train it for the future. As a child becomes an adult, the tonsils usually begin to shrink; the watchful guardians of childhood are no longer much-needed.
Gargling, refraining from eating during the 30 minutes before falling asleep, and careful oral hygiene may help minimize their formation.
For some people, however, the calculi can be quite bothersome, causing a constant foreign-body sensation, a chronic low-grade sore throat, recurrent episodes of tonsillitis persisting beyond childhood, or chronic bad breath.
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Treating tonsil stones almost never requires surgery, but when needed, treatment consists of either removing the tonsils or removing the calculi.