Maxillary tori, also known as palatal tori, is a bony growth on the roof of the mouth (the palate). Approximately one in five people have some form of this harmless condition. Here’s what you should know about this dental condition.

What is a maxillary tori?

Maxillary tori is referred to by several different names, including:

  • Torus palatinus: Appears in the middle of the upper palate
  • Palatal tori: Can appear on the upper or lower jaw inside the arch of teeth
  • Tori: A general term that refers to bony growths on upper or lower jaw

All of these names describe the same phenomenon: a bony bump on the roof of the mouth that is covered by gum tissue. This bump grows at varying speeds and can present itself in a variety of shapes (e.g., lobular, nobular, round, or irregular). To the touch, maxillary tori are hard. X-rays of the area mark this as a bony growth with opaque images – you cannot see through palatal tori.

Maxillary tori are considered completely normal and can be part of an otherwise healthy mouth.

Another type of tori is mandibular tori. These bony growths occur on the lower jaw (the mandible) under the tongue.

When a growth appears in the mouth and does not go away, many people automatically think of serious oral issues like oral cancer. However, there are some important differences between maxillary tori and cancerous growths.

Cancerous growths tend to be softer when palpated and most often occur in the soft tissues of the mouth. While maxillary tori are found bilaterally (on both sides of the palate), oral cancers usually only occur on one area of the mouth. Finally, cancerous growths can cause pain and numbness as they progress, but tori are painless unless injured.

What causes dental tori?

The main causes of torus palatinus are as follows.

Genetics

There is a strong genetic component to tori development. Parents who have maxillary tori will produce children with a 40-64% chance of also developing this condition. Children without maxillary tori in their genetic makeup have a less than 10% chance of either type of tori.

Bruxism

Teeth grinding and jaw clenching are very stimulating to the jawbone. Stimulation can produce bony growths, including maxillary tori.

Injury

Injury or trauma to bones in the mouth can cause maxillary tori to form. It is not clear why this happens, but it may be connected to the bones of the mouth overproducing bony growths while attempting to heal from trauma.

Forceful mastication (chewing)

A diet filled with hard, tough, and sticky foods (think hard pretzels and beef jerky) can stimulate bony growths in the same way that bruxism does.

Gender

The different types of tori are divided in prevalence between the genders. Women are more likely to have palatal tori, and men more likely to develop mandibular tori.

Across the population, maxillary tori occurs in about 20% of all people. Mandibular tori is half as rare, affecting approximately 10% of people in the U.S.

What causes tori to grow?

The speed of growth is not uniform and depends on a variety of factors. As we age, tori will continue to grow, but the reasons why are unclear.

Bruxism and the type of diet people consume may play a part in an accelerated growth rate, but there is no clear cause-and-effect when it comes to charting a “typical” path of growth. Some people may even see their maxillary tori recede and then get bigger over time.

Men in particular may see their mandibular tori recede over time as their body resorbs the bony growths.

Can maxillary tori be removed?

Maxillary tori removal is unnecessary in most cases.

The growths are harmless, benign, and generally do not interfere with eating, drinking, or speaking. Many people live their whole lives without even being aware of their tori unless a dentist points them out.

For some people, palatal tori do cause problems. Some maxillary tori begin to make eating and drinking challenging. In some cases, they only become a problem when a person needs dentures and the placement of the torus palatinus makes that problematic. In this case, maxillary tori removal is recommended.

How are tori removed?

There are two primary treatment options for maxillary tori removal, through traditional surgery and laser removal.

Traditional surgery

In traditional maxillary tori removal, patients are placed under general a