Overview of Tonsils: Causes, Treatments, and Alternatives to Tonsillectomy for Snoring

Last updated: September 9th, 2023

What Are Tonsils?

The pair of soft tissues on either side of the back of the throat are your tonsils. Tonsils help to fight infections and are part of the lymphatic system. When your tonsils are fighting an infection, they will actually slightly enlarge, called hypertrophic tonsils or tonsillitis, resulting in a reduction of your airway size which directly relates to an increased risk of snoring or developing sleep apnea. Continually infected tonsils may cause reoccurring sore throats, misalignment of your teeth called dental malocclusion, bad breath, abscesses, or an upper airway obstruction resulting in snoring or sleep apnea. Enlarged tonsils are usually seen in children and less common in adults.

Surgical Tonsil Removal (Tonsillectomy)- Is it a Good Option?

Surgical tonsil removal (tonsillectomy) does not increase your risk of infection, however, it is said to reduce or eliminate snoring or other sleep-disordered breathing. Some claim it’s an excellent, last resort resolution to stop snoring.

Alternatives to Tonsillectomy and Snoring

Every surgery involves risks and having a tonsillectomy does not guarantee that the nasal airway will be improved or widened. There are other treatments out there that can be put to use before having a tonsillectomy done, as this cannot be reversed.

Oral Appliances

Stop-snoring appliances include mandibular advancement devices and tongue stabilizing devices.

Nasal Devices

A few nasal devices include chin straps, nasal cones, and nose vents. These products can usually be purchased over the counter.

Positional Therapy

Positional therapy is achieved by positioning your body on its side in a certain way while sleeping in order to avoid snoring.

Consulting an ENT Doctor

There are many other options that your ENT doctor or Dentist can suggest to stop snoring. It’s best to schedule a consultation with your doctor so you can get a complete evaluation and learn about all the treatment options out there, what is available, and what is best for you.

Is Tonsillectomy a Solution to Stop Snoring?

Having a tonsillectomy is not entirely full proof and most doctors will not guarantee a 100% success rate with any surgery including this one. If your tonsils are responsible for your snoring, removal should reduce your snoring, if not completely stop it. Really the question to you is do you want to undergo surgery in order to stop your snoring? For most people, this is the last resort option after trying the above treatments and not having any luck. It’s always best to consult your doctor in order to make the correct decision for you and your partner.

Risk Factors

Like all other surgeries, tonsillectomies do involve certain risks. A few uncommon risks include infection, bleeding during and after surgery, anesthetic reactions, swelling, and failure to stop snoring.


Infection from a surgery is typically unlikely and rare; however, an infection can start during the actual procedure or afterward during recovery. An unsanitized instrument could cause the infection or an airborne bacteria or virus could be the culprit. If an incision is not properly closed or adequately cleaned during recovery, this could also lead to an infection. In most cases, patients have little to worry about. In the rare case that an infection does occur, antibiotics can treat most infections within a matter of days.

Bleeding during and after surgery

The most common side effect of a tonsillectomy is experiencing bleeding after the procedure has taken place. During surgery, if an area is unintentionally punctured, bleeding can occur and then steps will be taken to stop the internal bleeding. If this occurs, a longer hospital stay may be necessary as opposed to just being an outpatient. Bleeding during healing is also a possibility, though rare. If the scab or wound become open or infected, this can cause bleeding as well. In either case, the bleeding will be stopped by medical personnel.

Anesthetic Reactions

Though very rare, any type of procedure using anesthesia comes with about a one percent risk of an anesthetic reaction. These usually consist of pain during the procedure, dizziness or lightheadedness, brief confusion or a metallic taste in the mouth. Any of these reactions can usually be countered with medication, however rare cases can potentially become a life-threatening event.


Regardless of the age, it is common to experience swelling in the throat and neck. Swelling after a tonsillectomy is a sign of normal healing and usually only lasts a few days to a couple of weeks. In the rare case that it lasts longer than that, your doctor should be informed immediately.

Failure to Stop Snoring

Though a tonsillectomy does reduce or stop snoring, there is still a slight chance that it may not turn out the way you'd like. In the end, the success rate is much higher than not; however, some individuals may still experience periods of snoring. This could be due to the fact that the tissue may not have completely healed or other temporary issues the body is experiencing.


Whether its snoring or a troublesome tonsil infection, a tonsillectomy is a fairly safe procedure with few risks. Ultimately, this choice is up to you and your doctor, however, consulting an ENT doctor will help guide your decision when it comes to your tonsils and snoring. Furthermore, there are plenty of risk-free, over-the-counter treatments available that can help stop snoring, as well, including positional therapy, nasal devices, oral devices, and CPAP.

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