If you notice a large bony bump in your mouth along the gum line that wasn't always there, it may be cause for concern. While all new lesions in the mouth should be checked by a dental professional, there is one that is both normal and benign: the torus. Read on to find out about this oral phenomenon and how it affects your dental care.
What Is a Torus?
A torus (plural: tori) is a bony growth that can occur along the upper or lower gumline near the tongue. While tori are usually on the inside of the mouth, occasionally they are seen on the exterior gum line as well. Sometimes just a single bump is present, although frequently multiple growths are present on both sides of the mouth (bilaterally).
A torus on the lower part of the mouth is called a torus mandibularis, while on the upper gum line a torus palatinus.
Tori are sometimes caused by genetics, although more often they are the result of bruxism (grinding the teeth). Tori of the palate occur in about 20-35% of the US population; mandibular tori are only found in about 7-10% of Americans. They don't usually appear during childhood but develop as the jaw grows in the teen and young adult years, and if bruxism continues later in life, they can keep growing.
Why Are Tori Sometimes a Problem?
Tori can cause a variety of problems for people who have them, especially if they are large or in multiple locations. Because they protrude in the mouth, they more easily incur trauma. There isn't a lot of soft tissue over a torus, so if it ulcerates, the bone can be exposed, which is quite painful.
Having a torus can make it difficult to take dental impressions (such as for a crown), fit a mouthguard, or take x-rays with bite-wing plates. Often equipment or instruments don't fit in the mouth easily, and this can aggravate the natural gag reflex. People with tori therefore often do better having images taken by cone-beam computed tomography.
The presence of tori can also make it challenging to be fit with dentures. When a patient needs dentures or a crown, the tori often have to be removed. This procedure can be performed by an oral surgeon, although endodontists also frequently do tori removal simultaneously with procedures like root canals when tori are an impediment.
When Are Tori Actually Beneficial?
Having tori can actually be of benefit in certain situations. For example, if you need a dental implant but there isn't enough underlying bone structure after a tooth extraction, a torus can be a good source of bone graft. This is called a ridge augmentation and is another procedure often performed by endodontists and oral surgeons.
If you have what appears to be a new growth in your mouth, you should always show it to your dental health care provider like Maplewood Dental Associates, PA. However, don't be surprised to learn that you, too, have a torus. Once you are aware of it, you will be able to manage your dental treatments from a more informed perspective.