A torus is a bony outgrowth in the mouth. There are two types of tori: mandibular tori and palatal tori. As a general rule, a torus is not a major cause for concern, and no medical action needs to be taken when one is diagnosed, unless it interferes with a patient's ability to eat or drink. If a torus does need to be removed, the surgery is usually performed by a maxillofacial surgeon. The growth is sometimes mistaken for a cancer when patients first discover it.
In the case of a torus palatinus, the version which forms on the palate, the growth always appears along the midline of the palate. It starts as a small swelling which slowly grows into a bulging protuberance over time. The torus is not painful, and the patient will generally not notice it until it grows especially large or it is pointed out by a physician. Sometimes, the area around the torus will ulcerate, but otherwise the site is usually perfectly healthy. There appears to be a genetic component to palatal tori, although they may also be caused by environmental factors.
A mandibular torus always appears on the inside of the lower jaw. Classically, the tori appear on both sides of the jaw, in the same position. Grinding of the teeth and jaw appears to contribute to the formation of mandibular tori, and genetics may be involved as well. This type of torus can interfere with the fitting of dentures, and in cases where the projection becomes large, it may make it difficult for the patient to eat, in which case removal may be recommended.
If a torus needs to be removed, the patient will be put under anesthesia to allow the surgeon to work. He or she will cut away the torus entirely or shave the growth to a smaller size, depending on how large the growth is and where it is located. After the oral surgery, the patient will usually need to take preventative antibiotics so that infection does not set in, and it may be necessary to follow certain dietary restrictions until the site heals. Fortunately, the mouth tends to heal very rapidly, so patients can usually return to a normal diet shortly after surgery.
Bony outgrowths like tori can appear in other regions of the body as well, but these growths are only known as tori if they are in the previously mentioned locations. When removed and sectioned, these growths tend to consist of dense, mature bone, and there may be pockets in the bone filled with adipose deposits and tissue. The reasons why tori form are not fully understood; in some cases, they appear to be an indicator that a patient has a condition such as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), while in other cases, the growths appear to be entirely random.