Tonsil Balls – What Are They?

tonsil ballsTonsil balls are medically known and termed as Tonsilloliths or simply referred as tonsil stones. They are clustered calcium deposits forming in the fissures in the tonsils. Tonsils consist of the palatine and the nasopharyngeal tonsils, they are tissues found just adjacent to the nasopharynx and the oropharynx. Commonly, ‘tonsils’ as a term has reference to the palatine tonsils, which is found at the back of the throat. These tissues (tonsils) are the first line of defense of the body against pathogens that are either inhaled or ingested. Tonsil balls usually occur in the palatine tonsils, but sometimes they can be found to occur at the lingual tonsils.

Tonsil balls are material accumulations on the tonsils and can grow to a size as big as a peppercorn. These accumulations in the tonsils are colored white to shades of cream and are composed mainly of collagen. The odors emitted by these material accumulations are not pleasant to the senses. The odor emitted is composed of the chemical substance hydrogen sulphide and mercaptan. Hydrogen sulphide is characteristically possessed of the odor of rotten eggs due to the organic matter breakdown of bacteria without the presence of oxygen during the breakdown process. Mercaptan on the other hand is a gas (colorless) with a distinct odor of rotten cabbage.

Tonsil balls had been documented to weigh 300 milligrams and in some instances to as much as 42 grams. The composition of this tonsil balls are mainly calcified matter, but traces of the materials magnesium, phosphorous, ammonia as well as carbonate had been found. Tonsil balls whenever they protrude can feel like a foreign material stuck in the crypt of the tonsils. These protrusions are a likely discomfort and removing them is often difficult. This tonsil ball protrusion is the causative factor in the development of halitosis. Halitosis is the medical term use to refer to bad breath; it is the third most documented reason cited in seeking dental appointments, next to decaying tooth and other periodontal diseases. There is still no medical finding to show the cause and reason why tonsil balls develop.

Other than tonsil balls developing in the tonsils, they have also been found to have formed in the mouth’s roof as well as the throat. People who develop tonsil balls are those who had a history of having suffered from chronic inflammation of their tonsils or had a long medical history of being afflicted with tonsillitis. This condition has been shown to be connected with post-nasal drips. The calcium salt composition of tonsil balls had been shown to include traces of calcium carbonate apatite or hydroxy apatite, oxalates. Magnesium salts containing ammonium free radicals also form part of the calcified matter of the tonsil balls.

Diagnosing a tonsil ball is often made by inspecting the throat, but if a differential diagnosis is required, an embryonic rests is done on the branchial arches to check for calcified granuloma malignancy. Diagnosis of tonsil balls are a very difficult to conduct without clear and obvious signs.

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