Bony Bump On Gums: Mandibular Tori or Cancer?

torus-mandibularIf you look in your mouth and see bony bumps under the gums on the upper or lower jaw, You May be wondering, “What are these things?” There are many different names for “Boney-bits” growing under the gums depending on the location of those “Boney bits.” 

There is a flat bone called a torus, which is a benign bony growth found on the tongue side of the lower jaw, or on the hard palate. “Torus” is Latin for “bull”, and these small lumps probably got their name from their bulbous shape and the fact that they are made of strong, solid bone. Tori are generally not a problem, except when the removable prosthesis such as partial dentures or complete dentures must be fitted, or you have multiple growths that grow so large that they touch and irritate each other.


Mandibular Torus Bumps (hard) vs Cancer bumps (soft)

oral cancer cheek
Vs Oral Cancer – Cheek
oral cancer tongue
Versus Oral Cancer – Tongue


mandibular tori
Mandibular Tori

First, not all mouth sores and lesions are cancerous. If the gum lump is on the arch side of the jaw, it’s possible it is a ‘torus’, which is just a harmless, small ‘bony bump’, especially if it is hard. Tori is a fancy word for bone growth in the lower jaw, which is non-malignant. Tori is also often mistaken by patients for oral cancer. In about five percent of patients, bony growths are found that normal variants.

Oral cancers are almost always soft tissue lesions, in other words they are soft, not hard bumps. Cancer is very rarely hard in presentation like mandibular Tori. Cancer is not diagnosed feel alone, however, because there is nothing particularly unique or characteristic of the consistency or texture of cancer. These diagnostic parameters have little or no value in the diagnosis of cancer.

Mouth cancer is rare, and is more often found in soft tissues such as the tongue or cheek. Mouth cancer comes in many forms, but it is very unlikely to develop in the jaw (a common area for the lower Tori), unless you chew tobacco in that particular area.

Cancer of the lower jaw is sometimes accompanied by mucosal ulceration, or numbness of the lower lip due to erosion of sensory nerves, or hard swelling of the lymph nodes under the angle of the jaw. In contrast, mandibular Tori is a painless lump, causing no numbness, or tingling.

In almost all cases, the cancer growths lacks symmetry, grows only on one side of the mouth, or grows particularly large on one side vs little on the other. Generally lower Tori bumps are bilateral, ie, on both sides of the lower jaw, but it could also be one-sided.

Small Red Bumps on the Gums

Besides varying in texture (smooth versus rough, and hard knots versus soft), lumps on the gums can vary in color. If you have bright red bumps on your gums, especially if you have “clusters” of soft bumps, this could be a sign of oral cancer.

Mandibular torus bumps are usually light pink or white, since the bone is present just under the gum, with little gum flap covering. Dark pink or red lesions, especially if they last for more than 2 weeks, could be oral cancer. Mandibular torus is usually bigger than oral cancer, with beginning stage oral cancer appearing as little red bumps on the gums and mouth.

Oral cancer is usually bright red, because the cancer cells require a steady blood supply to grow. They may have a blister-like or soap bubble appearance. Red bumps can grow anywhere in the mouth, but the most common spots are on the inside of the jaw, inside the gums, and on the inner lip/cheek.

While mandibular tori is usually a painless lump, both cancer and mandibular torus can create painful lumps in the mouth as well.

Other reasons for the bumps on the gums

Bone growths in the mouth can be a lot of different situations. The reasons for the bump (both small and large) on the gums include:

  • Relationship with TMJ problems, if you have any.
  • If it was always there, nodules may be calcium deposits. Calcium deposits are identified as a hard lump on the gum under the tooth.
  • It could be a fistula, was associated with a root canal canaled tooth, or relating to the teeth with it.
  • Assuming the lump has been there for a relatively long time and is hard bone, there may be an “exostosis” – growth is very similar in nature to the mandibular torus, but less common place.
  • You could either have a periapical (dental) abscess or periodontal (gum) abscesses in relation to one or more of the treated teeth or other teeth in the area. This would create pain, swelling, and fever.
  • The cause may be malignant (abnormal cell growth) and not related to personality type, or parafunctional habits such as grinding.

Your periodontist should be able to diagnose the cause and advise on their management.

See Your Dentist If:

mandibular dentist

While each new appearance of bumps or any other sudden change in the structure inside the mouth is the cause for inspection and diagnosis, it could be normal. It would be desirable to have a dentist look at the knot, especially one with a background in oral pathology. I would hurry to the dentist, just in case it’s a bad kind of bump related to the tooth (ie malignant).

If this is something that has developed lately, and that is growing, you should see a dentist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment if indicated. Cancer is a specialty, and not all doctors will immediately recognize it.

If your dentist can not identify the bump on the gum, you should ask for a referral to either an oral surgeon or oral pathologist, a doctor in one of these specialties could make the diagnosis. 2 diagnostic methods that you might want to ask about the toludiene blue staining and Oral brush biopsy. Cancer also has been diagnosed pulp vitality tests, because cancer may or may not affect the vitality of the pulp. Cancer is not the kind of disease to fool around with an incorrect diagnosis.

Bony Gum Bump Diagnosis and Removal

If lower Tori is diagnosed, it may be necessary to undergo the removal process, because they can sometimes lead to periodontal problems. The only way to know would be to go to the dentist and check it out. Mandibular Tori and exostoses can be removed by most general practitioners, while palatal torus is often referred to an oral surgeon when complete denture is required. Surgical removal of growths Tori takes care of most dental tori, and they do not grow back. Other causes of small hard bony bumps on the gums, such as exostosis, fistulas, and dental abscess, require cleaning and draining by an oral surgeon.