What Is Torus Palatinus and How Is It Treated?
Torus palatinus is a harmless, painless bony growth located on the roof of the mouth (the hard palate). The mass appears in the middle of the hard palate and can vary in size and shape.
About 20 to 30 percent of the population has torus palatinus. It occurs most frequently in women and those of Asian descent.
What does it look like?
What are the symptoms?
While torus palatinus doesn’t usually cause any pain or physical symptoms, it can have the following characteristics:
- It’s located in the middle of the roof of your mouth.
- It varies in size, from smaller than 2 millimeters to larger than 6 millimeters.
- It can take on a variety of shapes — flat, nodular, spindle-shaped — or appear to be one connected cluster of growths.
- It’s slow-growing. It typically begins in puberty but may not become noticeable until middle age. As you age, the torus palatinus stops growing and in some cases, may even shrink, thanks to the body’s natural resorption of bone as we get older.
What causes it and who’s at risk?
Researchers aren’t exactly sure what causes torus palatinus, but they strongly suspect it may have a genetic component such that a person with torus palatinus might pass the condition on to their children.
Other possible causes include:
- Diet. Researchers studying torus palatinus note that it’s most prevalent in countries where people consume a large amount of saltwater fish — countries like Japan, Croatia, and Norway, for instance. Saltwater fish contain a high amount of polyunsaturated fats and vitamin D, two important nutrients for bone growth.
- Teeth clenching/grinding. Some researchers believe there is a connection between the pressure placed on bony structures in the mouth when you grind and clench your teeth. However, others disagree.
- Having increased bone density. While acknowledging more study is needed, researchers found that white postmenopausal women with a moderate-to-large torus palatinus were more likely than others to also have normal-to-high bone density.
How is it diagnosed?
If the torus palatinus is big enough, you’ll feel it. But if it’s small and you have no symptoms, it’s often something a dentist will find during a routine oral exam.
Is it cancer?
You should have any growth on your body investigated, but oral cancer is rare, occurring in just 0.11 percent of men and 0.07 percent of women. When oral cancer does occur, it’s usually seen on the soft tissues of the mouth, such as the cheeks and tongue.
Still, your doctor may want to use a CT scan to image the torus palatinus to rule out cancer.
What are the treatment options?
Treatment for torus palatinus isn’t usually recommended unless it’s impacting your life in some way. Surgery — the most common treatment — may be suggested if the bony growth is:
- making it difficult to properly fit you with dentures.
- so large it interferes with eating, drinking, speaking, or good dental hygiene.
- protruding to such a degree that you scratch it when you chew on hard foods, like chips. There are no blood vessels in the torus palatinus, so when it’s scratched and cut, it can be slow to heal.
Surgery can be performed under a local anesthetic. Your surgeon will typically be a maxillofacial surgeon — someone who specializes in neck, face, and jaw surgery. They’ll make an incision down the middle of the hard palate and remove the excess bone before closing the opening with sutures.
The risk of complications with this surgery is low, but problems can occur. They include:
- nicking the nasal cavity
- infection, which can occur when you expose tissue
- excessive bleeding
- reaction to the anesthesia (rare)
Recovery usually takes 3 to 4 weeks. To help minimize discomfort and speed healing, your surgeon may suggest:
- taking prescribed pain medication
- eating a soft diet to help avoid opening the sutures
- rinsing your mouth with salt water or an oral antiseptic to cut down on the risk of infection
Whenever you notice a lump anywhere on your body, get it checked out. It’s important to rule out something serious, like cancer.
But, in general, torus palatinus is a relatively common, pain-free, and benign condition. Many people lead healthy, normal lives despite a torus palatinus growth.
However, if the mass interferes with your life in any way, surgical removal is a successful and fairly uncomplicated treatment option.