Mandibular tori is the dental condition you may never hear about, even if you have it. Approximately 10% of the population in the U.S. experiences this benign dental condition, many without even knowing it. Here’s what you need to know.
What is mandibular tori?
Mandibular tori is a symmetrical bony growth that occurs in the lower jaw (the mandible) inside the lower arch of your teeth. Open your mouth and look in the space under your tongue near where the base of your teeth and the floor of your mouth connect. If there are hard bumps covered in soft gum tissue, they may be mandibular tori.
Mandibular tori is just one of three types of torus (the plural form of the condition). The other two are:
- Maxillary tori (also known as palatal tori or torus palatinus): These tori occur as a hard growth in the upper palate in the center of the upper arch of the teeth
- Buccal exostoses: Buccal exostoses are extremely rare and occur on the upper molars on the outside of the upper arch (touching the cheek)
Tori of every kind are extremely slow-growing and have a number of causes. Mandibular tori causes include the following.
Mandibular tori and palatal tori seem to have some gender preference.
Palatal tori are more common in women, and mandibular tori are more common in men. Turning that on its head, buccal exostoses normally affect men who also have palatal tori (which, as noted, is more common in women).
Children whose parents have any type of tori are at higher risk for developing tori themselves.
Between 40-60% of children will develop tori if their parents have it (compared to just 10% if no tori are present in the parents).
Jaw clenching and teeth grinding stimulate bone growth.
This holds true for mandibular tori as well. Those who suffer from this condition seem to develop tori at a greater rate.
Injury or trauma to the mouth
It is not known why injury to the mouth causes mandibular tori. One theory is that the injury stimulates the body to produce more bone to heal. This can cause overproduction of bone and, consequently, mandibular tori.
Is it cancer?
Many people who discover they have mandibular tori may mistake it for oral cancer. There is good news here. Cancerous growths tend to be softer when palpated and most often occur in the soft tissues of the mouth.
Mandibular tori are found bilaterally (on both sides of the lower jaw), but oral cancers usually only occur on one area of the mouth. Finally, cancerous growths typically cause pain and numbness as they progress, but tori are painless unless injured.
Patients may think that, even if their mandibular tori causes no pain or interference with daily life, these growths are somehow bad, but that’s typically not the case. Young adults and adults who develop mandibular tori (or palatal tori) tend to have higher bone mineral density (BMD) as they age. This means that they are less likely to develop osteoporosis, a thinning of the bones that can lead to broken bones as they age.
What causes tori to grow?
Mandibular tori are very slow-growing, so much so that it can be challenging to identify what causes tori to grow.
There is some evidence that bruxism can speed up the growth of tori. Diet may play a role in the growth cycle. Some tori also grow for a period of time, shrink, and then begin to grow again. Men with mandibular tori in particular may find their body resorbing the bony material altogether as they age.
In short, because their rate of growth is so slow, it is difficult to say what exactly causes tori to grow.
Do I have a mandibular tori?
Mandibular tori symptoms do not often include pain. Indeed, pain may be an indication of a different condition altogether.
Symptoms of mandibular tori are largely visual. The presence of bony growths bilaterally on the inner arch of your lower teeth is the best indication of mandibular tori. You