For many people, finding any unusual lumps or growths in their mouth can be unsettling to say the least, and more often become a cause for alarm.
Although not all growths are harmful or represent a health risk, it’s always important to be informed about anything that could potentially become a problem or cause discomfort.
In this article, we take a look at the oral growths known as mandibular tori. We will explain what they are, why they appear, and what can be done to treat them.
What exactly are mandibular tori?
A tori is a hard growth or lump that often has an irregular shape. These growths are made of bone material and are covered in gum tissue. You may have a single torus, or multiple tori.
There are three types of tori, depending on where they appear:
- Mandibular tori, which develop in the inner surface of the lower jawbone area.
- Palatal tori, which develop in the roof of the mouth.
- Oral exostoses, which usually appear on the outside of gum tissue near the molars or the lower jaw area.
Tori are not particularly common, as it is estimated they only appear in 5% to 25% of the population. Mandibular tori are the least common of all tori, since only 6% of people ever develop them.
Why do tori appear?
There are different reasons why tori may appear. Since they are most commonly found in adults, researchers believe that tori appear due to stressors or environmental factors, such as:
- Bruxism or teeth grinding. Some studies suggest that bruxism puts additional stress of the jaw muscles, and that this may trigger the development of tori.
- People with temporomandibular disorder (TMJ) also seem more likely to have tori, probably because jawbone dysfunction often puts extra pressure on the teeth and leads to bruxism.
- A poor diet that causes nutrient or vitamin deficiencies can also cause tori, in particular in people with low vitamin levels, or in those who consume a lot calcium, which can promote bony growths.
- Injuries to the mouth or jaw area are also linked to a higher incidence of tori.
Having said that, there is evidence to suggest that tori also jave genetic causes. For example, up to 60% of children whose parents have tori also develop these growths, compared to barely 10% in cases where parents do not have them.
In addition, gender seems to play a role too. For instance, males are more likely to have mandibular tori, whereas palatal tori seem more common in females.
Do I have to worry if I have tori?
Tori grow slowly, so they won’t just appear overnight. Once they are in the jaw area, they may get larger as time goes by, while others will stay the same size. In any case, the main thing to remember is that tori are typically benign or non-cancerous growths.
Although tori are harmless, in some cases they may become problematic. For example, tori may get accidentally scratched or scraped, either due to an injury or through everyday activities, like eating. Germs and bacteria could develop on a scraped tori surface and eventually cause an infection if left untreated.
Some tori may cause problems if their location or size affects the fit of dentures, braces, or other orthodontic devices. They could also rub against implants or crowns, and potentially damage them.
Depending on the tori’s shape and location, food could get trapped under them and be difficult or impossible to remove, which would become a dental hygiene issue.
In some cases, tori interfere with the normal functioning of the teeth and or the jaw, making it difficult or uncomfortable to eat or speak.
Another thing to be aware of is that tori may cause or worsen sleep apnea. These growths may become a physical barrier that interferes with the normal flow of air and contributing to the onset of obstructive sleep apnea, or making existing apnea more severe.
Lastly, even if none of the above issues happen, tori could be problematic for people who may be concerned due to cosmetic reasons – especially if the growths are very large or visible.
Can mandibular tori be treated?
Dental professionals recommend leaving tori as they are, unless they become a functional or cosmetic concern. In that case, you should know that treatment is available.
Treatment involves surgical removal, which is done by an oral or dental surgeon under local anaesthetic. The procedures involves making an incision, trimming the bony growth, either with a laser or with a special blade. The tori is then removed and the area is closed back up with stitches.
You can go home immediately after the procedure, but the area can take up to 8 weeks to heal completely. During the post-op period, you may have some soreness and discomfort, so follow your surgeon’s instructions regarding the use of antibiotics, painkillers, and any foods and drinks to avoid.
You should also know that once removed, tori can grow back, although this is not common.
If mandibular tori concern you, don’t hesitate to speak to your dentist and request a full examination. Although they’re most likely harmless, they can cause discomfort and oral health issues that can be treated at the dentist office.