(Disclaimer: this post is mildly gross. Proceed at your own risk.)
Bodies are disgusting.
I mean, sure, they’re amazing and magical and whatever, but they also do some truly disgusting stuff…usually in the name of keeping us alive.
For instance: did you know that your tonsils can produce stones? Yep! When shit (well, presumably not actual shit, otherwise you’ve probably got bigger issues to contend with), builds up in your throat, bits of it often get stuck to / in your tonsils. The upside is that this keeps the shit (or whatever) from making it down your throat into your lungs! The downside is, your tonsils gotta do something with that stuff. Sometimes you just cough it out. Sometimes you swallow something that dislodges the junk and sends it down into your stomach to be blasted by digestion.
But, sometimes whatever is back there can’t be dislodged and it starts collecting more junk. You know, because being a gross little chunk of crap in someone’s throat is…lonely? Anyway, point being, the crap builds up in one of the little pockets or wrinkles on your tonsil, calcifies, and then you have yourself a tonsil stone. Or a tonsillolith, if you’re fancy.
Tonsilloliths are very common and lots of people have them without ever even knowing because the stones are situated back / down far enough that they’re not visible. So don’t judge. You may well have tonsil rocks you’ve never met.
I’ve always had stupidly big tonsils. Like, the kind of tonsils where every doctor who has ever looked down my throat has said something along the lines of “geez, those are monstrous, how do you even breathe?”. To which I have given up trying to reply snarkily and instead say some version of “I know. What do I have to do to get them taken out?”. The answer is usually that if I want insurance to cover it, I have to wait until it’s ‘medically necessary’ to have them removed. Which of course is doctor-ese for ‘they have to make you super sick’. And to their credit (the tonsils, not the doctors), they really haven’t done so yet….so I guess I’m stuck with them.
Anyway. Back to the stone.
I had a cold last week, which came with all the typical grossness. I also suffer from year-round allergies, so I have kind of a constant background level of cacky junk traveling between my sinuses and throat. There’s been no shortage of mank hanging around my tonsils the last week or so. So the other day when I looked down my throat with the flashlight (normal people do that on a regular basis, right? RIIIIIGHT.), I wasn’t especially shocked to see a little white spot on my left tonsil. I’ve had them before, usually right in that same spot. In the past I’ve been able to dislodge them with a little bit of semi-aggressive salt water gargling. In one VERY memorable case, I actually reached back with my toothbrush and managed to knock a stone loose with the bristles…but then my gag reflex took over and I booted up my breakfast. So nobody REALLY won that round.
I should note here: the stone in question doesn’t hurt at all. In fact, it’s still new enough that it probably hasn’t even calcified into stone form. It’s probably just a little pocket filled with grody smeg back there. A pocket of grody smeg that I happen to be able to see every single time I open my mouth in front of a mirror. It’s not like this is a matter of urgency, to get this junk off of my tonsil. It would be highly improbably that this spot morphed into something that made me ill in any way. It is literally just grossing me out every time I (far too frequently) see it and so I want it gone.
I want it gone so much, in fact, that while I was in the bathroom at work looking at it earlier, I decided to take action.
Did I go warm up some water, dump some salt in it, and have a nice soothing gargle?
Did I give myself a pep-talk about how some bodily functions really are best saved to be dealt with at home?
What I did was grab a handful of paper towels from the dispenser, twist them around my index finger, and reach back to try and manually scrape my tonsil with them.
As I’m sure you’ve already figured out, this move was unwise in several ways.
The first was that I made a total rookie mistake and didn’t wet the paper towel first, so it kind of stuck a bit when it made contact with my tonsil. The second was that, in my fervor, I forgot how strong my gag reflex is (it’s dry-heave-when-I-try-to-brush-my-tongue strong, for the record). The combination of these two very stupid things did NOT result in vomit, thankfully…but what it DID result in was a loud and somewhat confused choking, squawking animal noise issuing forth from my rightfully angry throat as I tried to fight said gag reflex long enough to knock the stone loose.
Several seconds later, when the stars in my vision had finally cleared and my tongue had returned to its normal position rather than trying to forcibly remove itself from my body, I shone my cell phone flashlight into my mouth to survey my work.
The stone hadn’t even budged.
I’ve learned my lesson at this point, I swear. I’m not going to try to mess with it any more until I get home and can have a good long gargle.
But I’ll be perfectly honest with you here, friends. There’s a drawer full of leftover take-out chopsticks in the break room that are going to be calling my name all afternoon.