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What Is the Facial Artery?

A diagram of the human head and neck, including facial arteries.
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  • Written By: Andy Josiah
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2014
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The facial artery is a blood vessel that supplies certain structures of the face with blood. It was once referred to as the external maxillary artery; this is an older term, however, that has since fallen out of use. The facial artery is one of the branches of the external carotid artery.

As one of the major arteries of the head and neck, the external carotid artery has eight branches, with the facial artery being one of them. It is one of the external carotid artery's five branches that arise in the carotid triangle, which forms part of the neck's anterior, or front, triangle. The facial artery travels forward and upward in this space.

From the carotid triangle, the facial artery rises a bit above the lingual artery. Then it goes in a sloping fashion beneath the digastricus and stylohyoid muscle, which are muscles beneath the mandible, or lower jaw. The ramus of the mandible shelters the facial artery at this section of its course. The blood vessel arches over these small muscles to go over the rear surface of the paired submandibular salivary glands, or submaxillary glands, beneath the mouth's floor.

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The facial artery goes upward again, this time over the lower jaw at the region where the masseter — a muscle instrumental in mastication, or chewing of food — is located. It continues its ascent along the nose's side to the orbit, the socket where the eye is located. This is where the facial artery terminates and becomes the angular artery.

There are eight branches of the facial artery. They are divided into two categories: cervical branches and facial branches. The cervical branches are the ones found in the neck. They consist of the ascending palatine artery, tonsillar branch, submental artery and the glandular branches. The latter in particular consists of three or four vessels and is sometimes called the submaxillary branches because it supplies the submaxillary glands.

The facial branches include the aforementioned angular artery, which is named for its sloping disposition, as it is distributed through the skin and muscles of the nose's side. The three other facial branches are the inferior labial artery, the superior labial artery and the lateral nasal artery. The inferior and superior labial artery are found at the mouth, with the latter being the bigger blood vessel of the two. The lateral nasal artery is sometimes called the lateral nasal branch to nasalis muscle since it supplies this circular muscle of the nose.

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