What Do the Tonsils Do?

First line of defense

Tonsils are located at the back of the throat and made up of two masses of soft tissue. They fight against infections by producing lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) when presented with inhaled or ingested bacteria. When there is an infection, they will respond by swelling. The tonsils will trap bacteria and viruses entering the nose or mouth to kill them. They have also been shown to release substances that prevent infections. They trap and kill inhaled bacteria before it reaches the lungs. Removing the tonsils surprisingly does not increase susceptibility to infection. For digestion, tonsils fight against infection before it enters the alimentary canal. This canal consists of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, intestines, and anus.

Tonsil stones

Tonsil stones can form when granules of food do not flow down the esophagus, but fall into the pits and crevices of the tonsils. Other components include saliva, dead cells, and mucus. After some time, these granules group together to form soft or hard stones. While not harmful, they could possibly reflect poor dental hygiene, sinus issues, or enlarged or inflamed tonsils. They can also lead to bad breath as they develop bacteria and fungi.

Common recommendations to removing them include gargling with salt water, staying well hydrated, and keeping up with good oral hygiene.

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