Exostoses and Tori

Oral Surgeon in Racine

Exostoses or tori, are benign outgrowths of bone. They commonly occur on the jaws. Right now, feel with your tongue on the inside surface of your lower jawbone all around and on the roof of your mouth. In the normal lower jaw, the bone is smooth and extends essentially straight down from the lower teeth. In the roof of the mouth, the palate normally forms a high arch. If you feel bumps of bone in these areas, you have been blessed with exostoses or tori. They occur in about 15% of the population. In some cases, they may be all around on the gums and jaws. Sometimes they cause problems, especially when they get large. They can interfere with the retention of dentures and they can cause periodontal issues on the adjacent teeth. They often get injured and cause pain. It is a common surgical procedure for us to remove them.

Torus vs. Exostoses

When I went through school to be an oral surgeon, the term torus or tori (plural), referred to having these bone growths present at birth. The term exostosis or exostoses, referred to these as developmental bone growths slowly growing through life which is the most common finding. In fact, I am not sure that I have ever seen a case, during my time as an oral surgeon, of having them present at birth. Because of this, I have spent a good part of my career as an oral surgeon trying to put forth the correct usage of the word exostosis in reference to these. I believe I am the only oral surgeon, with maybe the exception of the teacher I had in residency, that imprinted the original thought on me, who has had this ambition.

Recently I was reading an article (J Oral Maxillofac Surg 70:1286-1291, 2012), where, as usual, they are using the terms interchangeably. In reality, I realize that it just does not matter. As an oral surgeon, I like using proper terminology, but the term “tori” is just cute. I might picture “Tori” as cute little cartoon characters from another planet. It is a much easier word to remember than exostosis, so I give up. Let’s just call them tori!

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