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Mouth Diseases

White chunks coming out of throat

08/24/2006

Question:

My daughter is 17 years old. Beginning about one year ago, she started coughing up white chunks. They range in size from about the size of a quarter to the size of a pencil eraser. They are solid and white and seem about the consistency of plaque. But when I looked in her throat, I see the chunks are coming out of what appears to be a vertical pocket in the back of the throat. She has had her tonsils removed, but I don`t know if that has anything to do with it.

So, here are the questions: What are the white chunks? Why does she get them? Why does she have a vertical pocket in the back of her throat?

Answer:

What you are describing sounds like either tonsilliths (stones of the tonsil tissue) or tonsillar debris.  Following surgery to remove the tonsils, tonsil tissue may persist or grow back in some patients.  The vertical pocket or cleft you mention probably represents the area where this tissue has persisted. Shedding skin cells, oral bacteria and other microorganisms, and thick saliva can pool or collect in such pockets, leading to the formation of a visible pile of whitish debris.  Over time, this material can gather calcium salts from the saliva and become hard or calcify.

This condition is not serious and rarely requires any treatment, but it can be a nuisance for some individuals.  To be sure, I would recommend you seek a consultation with an ear, nose, and throat doctor in your area.

You may also wish to visit our Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders health topic.

Good luck!

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Response by:

John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD
Clinical Professor of Pathology
Associate Dean of Dentistry Administration
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University