The Bones of the Human Face - dummies

By David Terfera, Shereen Jegtvig

The bones of the cranium don’t just protect your skull. Some delicate bones form your beautiful face. The facial bones don’t move much, except for the jawbone (which for some people moves a lot).These facial bones form the face by completing the orbits, leaving room for the nose and creating the jaw and mouth. The first two bones appear as single bones, but the rest occur in pairs, with one on each side of the face:


  • Mandible: The mandible is a U-shaped bone that forms the lower jaw, and it’s easily palpated. The horizontal part of the jaw is called the body, which contains alveolar processes that form sockets for the teeth. The mental protuberance is the part of the lower anterior body that juts forward. The body has two small openings called the mental foramina.

    The vertical portions are called the rami. The angle of the mandible marks the transition between the body and ramus on each side. Each ramus has two parts that project upwards: the coronoid process is anterior and the condylar process is posterior. The condylar process forms the inferior portion of the temporomandibular joint where it articulates with the mandibular fossa of the temporal bone.

  • Vomer: The thin vomer joins the perpendicular plate of the ethmoid bone to form part of the nasal septum. It’s located in the midline of the skull, with the choanae, or posterior nasal openings, on either side.

  • Maxillae: Two maxillae form the upper jaw. Alveolar processes form sockets for the teeth, and the palatine processes form the roof of the mouth. The tops of the maxillae form the inferior parts of the orbits, and they each have an opening just below the orbit called the infra-orbital foramen. Medially, they surround the piriform aperture, which is the pear-shaped anterior portion of the nasal opening. They meet each other at the intermaxillary suture and join the zygomatic bones below the eyes at the cheeks.

  • Zygomatic bones: The zygomatic bones form the lateral sides of the orbits and the cheekbones. Each one has a small zygomaticofacial foramen just inferior and lateral to the orbit. The temporal process meets the zygomatic process of the temporal bone. This union forms the zygomatic arch.

  • Nasal bones: The two small nasal bones form the bridge of the nose. They meet the frontal bone at the nasion and join the maxillary bones laterally.

  • Lacrimal bones: The thin, small lacrimal bones are located on the medial aspect of the orbit between the ethmoid and maxilla bones. A small groove called the lacrimal fossa houses the lacrimal sac. The lacrimal sac is the dilated portion of the nasolacrimal duct that conveys tears from the eyes to the nasal cavity.

  • Inferior concha bones: The inferior conchae are two bony plates that extend along the lateral wall of the nasal cavity. The inferior conchae, along with the middle and superior conchae of the ethmoid bone form the nasal turbinates.

  • Palatine bones: The palatine bones form the posterior portion of the roof of the mouth, part of the orbits, and part of the inferior wall of the nasal cavity.