Everything you need to know about tonsil stones, the weird growths that look like pimples in your throat

Disgusting medical videos are all the rage on YouTube these days. Pimple popping, cyst draining, earwax removal, back cracking, foot callus scraping — you name it, there are probably millions of people who want to watch it on video. 

The removal of tonsil stones — tiny, pebble-like growths that can be popped out of the tonsils — is no exception. It’s a little bit like pimple popping, just inside a throat. And watching it happen on video is really satisfying.

First, a quick explainer for the uninitiated: Your tonsils are actually part of your immune system, the Mayo Clinic notes. They make white blood cells and antibodies and help fight off infections. But they also happen to be full of spooky-sounding cavities called tonsillar crypts. Some people’s crypts are deep enough that bits of food or mucus can get stuck deep inside.

Over time, those bits of debris can calcify, turning into hard, pale yellow growths made of calcium and other minerals. These are tonsil stones, and they can range in size from microscopic to a few centimeters in diameter, according to one scientific paper. 

tonsil stone

Sometimes they’re nothing more than a nuisance. But there are some case reports showing that tonsil stones can cause difficulty breathing, pain when swallowing, ear pain, and bad breath. 

Fortunately, you can easily remove them at home. The Mayo Clinic recommends gently pushing on the tonsil with a cotton swab or your toothbrush until the stone pops out. People who get them all the time could also consider getting their tonsils outright removed.

And if you ever need a video tutorial to guide you, fear not: A search for “tonsil stones” on YouTube returns roughly 80,000 results. Like all great medical videos, they’re hard to watch but even harder to stop watching. Here, we’ve rounded up a few of the very best:

This tonsil stone pop is short, sweet, and to the point. No wonder it has more than 15 million views. 

If you want to watch someone freak out about their own tonsil stones, we recommend this hilarious DIY removal performed by a tween and caught on video by her horrified sister. 

And if you want stone-popping compilation check out this up-close-and-personal video from a YouTube channel called Tonsil Stone Man.