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What Is the Zygomatic Process?

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  • Written By: Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2016
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The zygomatic process is a section of the skull where additional bone is present as a protrusion. Specifically, it is the main protrusion of bone that forms the prominence of the upper cheek, the cheekbone. This process is called the zygomatic process because the zygomatic bone forms the majority of it, but the maxilla, temporal and frontal bones also contribute to the protrusion. The extensions of the zygomatic bone that reach toward the surrounding bones of the skull by themselves are identified as individual zygomatic processes. The process serves as a connecting point and structure of protection, with leaders in fashion and beauty preferring processes that are prominent.

To understand the zygomatic process, a person first should understand a bit about skull bone structure. The maxilla is a fusion of two bones, forming the upper jaw and which hold the upper teeth. Below this is the lower jaw or mandible, the sides of which rise toward the ear. The mandible connects to the temporal bone to form the primary hinges necessary to open and close the mouth, with the sides and top of the temporal bone connecting to the zygomatic, sphenoid, parietal and occipital bones. The frontal bone is the area of the skull that forms the forehead; looking at the skull from the top, it extends back about a third of the entire skull length to meet the parietal bones that form the top of the head.

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Above the side of the maxilla bone is the zygomatic bone. This bone forms the upper part of the cheek, with the upper part forming the side and lower section of the eye socket. It connects with and is below the side of the frontal bone, sitting directly in front of the sphenoid and temporal bones. Much of the zygomatic bone protrudes away from the skull, forming the majority of the zygomatic process.

Also included in the zygomatic process or cheek "bump" are the points where the zygomatic bone extends or protrudes to connect with the maxilla, temporal and frontal bones. Each of these are specifically named by the connecting bone, identifying the connecting bone first. The protrusion extending toward the temporal bone, for instance, is the "temporal process of the zygomatic." When people say the "zygomatic process of the temporal (maxilla, frontal)," by comparison, they're looking at the processes of the maxilla, temporal and frontal bones that connect with the zygomatic processes. Thus, when someone says "zygomatic process," he may mean the entire protrusion of the cheek or one of the smaller protrusions of the zygomatic bone that allow it to connect to the rest of the skull.

The zygomatic process has two primary functions. First, similar to other processes in the body, it serves as a connecting point for muscles and ligaments. The temporal process of the zygomatic and the zygomatic process of the temporal together form the zygomatic arch, for instance, which holds the masseter, one of the main muscles a person uses to chew. The second function is to provide some protection to the inner structures of the face. The frontal process of the zygomatic, for example, protects the eye.

Although people may see the process purely from the biological standpoint, in fashion and beauty, industry leaders see a prominent zygomatic process — that is, a cheekbone that clearly sticks out — as beautiful. It adds shape and definition to the face and provides an area where a makeup artist can create some direction and add color. When women apply blush or bronzer to the cheek, they are attempting to make the process stand out.

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