We’re surely all pretty familiar with the structure and layout of our mouths. From early infancy, most people are also pretty accustomed to feeling them with their tongues. They likely know the snag of every tooth and how the roof of their mouth feels. But should you be worried after discovering a hard lump there?
The inside of your mouth has some main parts; your tongue, teeth and gums are perhaps the most obvious. Underneath the tongue is the floor of your mouth, and, conversely, the top is known as the roof. Furthermore, it can also be referred to as the palate.
The forward section of the mouth roof is called the hard palate. And it’s easy to see why if you feel it with your tongue. But it becomes softer and more muscular towards the back, and hence this part is called the soft palate. Meanwhile, nearer the rear of the soft palate on the sides are the tonsils.
Open your mouth really wide and you should be able to see a little dangly thing right at the back. This is called the uvula, and the tissue actually stops things you eat and drink from going up into your nose.
Adults have a total of 32 teeth, while little children start to lose their baby dentures at the age of six or so – although it can be younger. Adolescents have normally grown most of their proper teeth by roughly the age of 13. And the furthest back teeth should come have through by the time you’re 21.
These final dentures – wisdom teeth – are the biggest and strongest teeth in your mouth. Everyone will have them present in their gums, but they don’t always emerge properly. For example, sometimes there is not enough space in the gum for them to grow.
Wisdom teeth sometimes grow at a funny angle and into your other pearly whites. It’s fairly common for these mature teeth to be taken out by a dentist if this happens. And of course, it can be very painful. Wisdom dentures will also be removed if they’re unhealthy or having a negative impact on surrounding teeth.
Another reason you might need one of your teeth taken out is if they have become rotten. Tooth decay is the most likely reason you’d need dental extraction, according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. But your dentist is likely to have performed the procedure many times, so you should be in safe hands.
A tooth generally has to be in a pretty bad state before it’s deemed beyond saving. Oral & Facial Surgeons of Arizona notes that the decay will need to have worked its way through the enamel and the dentin, where it spreads quickly. And you can be looking at a painful root canal infection if the center of the tooth has become infected.
The website notes that check-ups and cleanings every six months should stop cavities from forming. But another important reason to maintain good oral hygiene is to stop the occurrence of gum disease. This is caused when too much plaque accumulates on the teeth.
A build-up of plaque can inflame the gums and cause bleeding when you clean them. According to the National Health Service (NHS), you should always see your dentist if this happens, because a condition known as periodontitis can develop if it’s left unchecked. This has adverse consequences for the soft tissue in your gum, which can cause them to recede. Furthermore, pain and even tooth loss can follow in more severe cases.
Of course, it is always possible that a tooth might become broken by accident. And it’s likely that it will need to be removed and replaced with a partial denture if the break happens too close to the gum. Teeth can also be taken out during orthodontic treatment if they are overcrowded in order to help space them out.
There are, however, instances where a specialized surgeon would need to operate on your mouth for more serious reasons. One of the prime concerns would be oral cancer, although this is thankfully pretty rare. Healthline reports that only 0.07 percent of women and 0.11 percent of men get the condition.
According to the NHS, signs of mouth cancer include ulcers, as well as lumps in the mouth or neck that won’t heal over time. Numbness in the mouth and altered speech can also be indicators, as can oral lumps and white or red areas. In addition, teeth that are loose for no reason can be another factor.
It’s imperative that you see a dentist or doctor if you experience any of the aforementioned issues for more than a couple of weeks. And the risks are increased if you’re a smoker or drinker. Having said that, the U.K.’s health service adds that lumps in your mouth are usually not a cause of too much concern. You must always seek medical advice, though.
There are a variety of reasons why noncancerous growths might occur – including warts or thrush. Often, they are caused by an irritant persistently rubbing against the inside of the cheek – such as braces. A good way to prevent this is by applying a bit of orthodontic wax to the bit of metal that is protruding, according to Colgate.
Another common type of localized swelling in the mouth is a cyst. These can develop when you bite the interior of your lower lip by mistake – for example when eating. This can cause the saliva gland to block, which leads to a build-up of saliva under the skin that can develop a fibrous coating and create what’s known as a pseudocyst.
As with any trauma to the mouth, a cyst or ulcer can be especially annoying as you’ll likely bite on them again if they stick out. It can be a good idea to get the ailment seen to and maybe even surgically removed by a dentist if the problem persists.
Salivary gland tumors are another type of lump that might be a cause of minor distress. According to The Merck Manuals, they occur most commonly in women over 40 and shouldn’t hurt. These tumors are normally benign, but it is important to have them looked at by a dental professional as they can occasionally become cancerous.
It’s even possible for an excess of the tissues that normally create teeth to build up in certain places. These overgrowths are called odontomas, and to the untrained eye it can look like surplus teeth have formed. They can also prevent the growth of real teeth or push them out of line.
Odontomas may look unsightly when they appear above the gum, but they are not cancerous. Your dentist will be able to remove them and they don’t tend to grow back afterwards, according to Colgate.
But let’s return to hard bumps on the roof of your mouth. These are actually called torus palatinus, and they normally appear right in the center of your hard palate. In fact, these lumps run along the midline and will usually be symmetrical on either side.
The protrusion apparently measures no more than two centimetres. The size isn’t fixed, though, and it can alter over time. Science Direct writes that they are usually first noticed when a person is approaching their 20s or young adulthood. However, the lumps can take a while to grow, so you may not see them until later.
In fact, you may not be aware of the toris palatinus at all, and it might instead be discovered at a normal dental check-up. Interestingly, they can also decrease in size with age. That’s because your body reabsorbs bone as you get older.
There are several different kinds of palatal tori – the plural term for torus palatinus. The flat variant is not flush with the roof of the mouth, but rather it has a large and smooth surface area. Meanwhile, spindle tori have a ridge running along the center.
Palatal tori can also appear as more than one lump. A cluster of them – each with their own foundation – are called nodular tori. Meanwhile, Lobular tori are similar in that there are multiple lumps, but they share the same base.
Science Direct reports that cases of torus palatinus are twice as common for women as they are for men. The condition also seems to be more common within Asian, Inuit and native North American populations. There’s also a reported high incidence among Korean people.
The higher presence of torus palatinus in certain populations suggests that it might have a genetic cause. Indeed, many scientists are inclined to agree with this hypothesis. This means that the children of someone who has lived with this condition could inherit it. But there may be other factors involved.
There are a number of things which could lead to the development of palatal tori. Because it is a bony structure, it’s not surprising that examples of the condition can be linked to people with higher-than-average bone density or bone growth.
Healthline notes that Asian populations and those in countries like Norway and Croatia where saltwater fish is regularly consumed see higher incidences of torus palatinus. That’s because these types of fish are high in vitamin D and polyunsaturated fats. And both of these are essential for helping bones grow strong.
But should you be concerned after discovering a hard lump on the roof of your mouth which bears all the traits of this condition? Thankfully, the short answer is no; palatal tori aren’t dangerous to your health and in themselves won’t be painful.
But any protrusion in the mouth can be annoying, and food can catch on a large or awkward-shaped torus palatinus when you’re eating. This can be especially painful if the edges are sharp – like with a potato chip.
Palatal tori can also get in the way if you require any orthodontic treatment or need dentures fitted. In some instances, they can prevent the braces or false teeth being fitted correctly. When this happens, the bony lump could well be surgically removed so that the dental equipment can be fitted properly.
It may also be that the shape or protrusion of the lump causes so much discomfort when eating that it should be removed. A prominent example of the condition may affect the person’s ability to talk normally, too. In this case, it would also be preferable for it to be removed.
But just how common are palatal tori? We’ve seen how some populations seem to be more affected by them. In the U.S., they are a common affliction, and between 20 to 35 percent of the population are reportedly affected.
So, it is fine to leave the condition alone – unless it is bothering you. Specialized dental surgery can easily correct a case of torus palatinus if it’s impacting on your lifestyle. The roof of your mouth will be cut open and any excess bone will be removed. After that, the hard palate is then sewn up again.
It normally takes less than a month to recover from an operation to remove palatal tori, according to Healthline. During this time, the publication adds that it’s important to keep the wound infection-free by flushing out your mouth with an oral antiseptic or salt water.
The medical website suggests taking an over-the-counter paracetamol or ibuprofen to counteract the pain while your mouth heals after the surgery. Suffice to say, it’s also a good idea to eat mushy foods to prevent any trauma to the area until it is properly closed up.
As with any surgeries, you should be aware of the risks before entering the operating room. The area may swell or bleed after the operation, or it could get infected – though making sure you keep it clean above should help prevent this. Furthermore, the medical team will warn you about the risk of an adverse reaction to the anesthetic.
There’s generally no cause for alarm if you develop torus palatinus. Healthline adds that patients should avoid treatment for the condition unless their lives are being adversely affected. You might want to look out for those sharp chips, though.