What are the Facial Bones?

B. Schreiber

The facial bones are a group of bones that make up the skeleton of the face, and they’re present in both humans and animals. Humans typically have 14 bones in the face and these, along with the eight bones of the neurocranium or braincase, form the skull. They are usually thought to consist of a single mandible and vomer, and pairs of maxillary, zygomatic, nasal, lacrimal, and palatine bones. These bones begin growing as a fetus develops and, as almost all bones do, continue expanding in increments as a person approaches maturity. In addition to forming the basic structure of the face, these bones create cavities at the locations of the sense organs necessary for seeing, smelling, and tasting. They also allow for the intake of food and air, and anchor the teeth and facial muscles. The small size of these bones often means that they take less time to heal when fractured, though injuries in this region can be more noticeable; if healing isn’t perfect, it can dramatically impact the way a person tastes or smells as well as altering his or her general appearance.

The facial bones are a group of bones in the skull that make up the skeleton of the face.
The facial bones are a group of bones in the skull that make up the skeleton of the face.


One of the most easily recognized facial bones is the jaw. Humans and almost all animals have hinged jaws that open to allow food, air, and water access to the respiratory and digestive systems. The mandible, or lower jawbone, sits at the base of the facial skeleton. It is primarily responsible for the motion of chewing. It’s the largest and also the strongest bone in this region, and is also the only one that has a significant range of motion. This range comes from the bone’s two temporomandibular joints, which allow the mandible and the teeth it holds to rise and fall.

The nasal bones are the most commonly injured facial bones.
The nasal bones are the most commonly injured facial bones.

The two maxillary bones make up the upper jaw and the central portion of the facial skeleton. These bones are joined to all the other bones of the face excluding the mandible. Like the mandible, though, they have an alveolar margin that connects with the tooth sockets. The maxillary bones connect to the upper teeth and the mandible to the lower jaw to form a complete mouth.


The zygomatic bones, commonly called the cheekbones, form joints with the temporal bones of the braincase. They also form a lower portion of the eye sockets and are responsible for the raised portion of the cheeks. Next to the cheekbones are the nasal bones. These bones join with the cartilage that forms the outer nose. The nasal bones are some the most commonly injured bones in humans, probably because of the way the fleshy nose sticks out; objects that hit or smash the cartilage of the nose often also come into contact with these thin and delicate bones.

Allowing for the Eyes and Nose

The lacrimal bones are situated in the inner portion of the eye sockets. They form part of a structure that holds the lacrimal sac, which allows tears to flow into the nasal cavity. The palatine bones are two small bones located behind the maxillary bones, and the vomer is located in the nasal cavity. This small, solitary bone makes up the lower part of the septum of the nose.

The bones that make up the face also create special structures, called orbits, that hold each of the eyes and the eye muscles in place. Each orbit is created by parts of each facial bone, excluding the mandible. The nasal cavity, by comparison, is formed by parts of the maxillary and palatine bones as well as cartilage.

Healing Time and Injury Concerns

The facial bones are often some of the fastest to regenerate in case of injury or fracture, but they are also some of the most prone to damage. Humans and animals alike often take blows to the face when they’re involved in accidents or fights, particularly where speed is involved; facial injuries are also some of the most common in organized sports and amongst athletes. Modern medical experts are often highly skilled in facial reconstruction, but these bones’ proximity to the eyes, the nose, and even the brain mean that complications can be more serious. It’s usually a good idea for people who have experienced facial trauma to get care promptly to reduce the risk of lasting damage to things like sight or smell.

Humans and almost all animals have hinged jaws that open to allow access to food, air and water.
Humans and almost all animals have hinged jaws that open to allow access to food, air and water.

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Discussion Comments


I don't think the average person thinks much about his or her facial bones unless there is a major problem with the bones. However, in the fashion world, facial bone structure is very important, and many models get their starts in the modeling profession because of the way their facial bones have developed.

In the fashion work, high cheek bones can be worth millions of dollars. Of course, there is more to modeling than the way the models look, but without the right bone structure and body type a person's chances of becoming a super model or even a successful model are not so good.


@Animandel - I am familiar with Treacher Collins syndrome, and one of the interesting facts about the condition is that the symptoms in some people are not noticeable while, as you said, in other people the symptoms can be severe and in some cases life threatening.

Also, in some people small facial bones such as the chin and jaw bones are indicators that Treacher Collins in present.


A neighbor who lives right down the street from me and my family just told me that her daughter has been diagnosed with a condition known as Treacher Collins syndrome. As I understand this condition it can affect the way the bones in the face develop and mature.

My neighbor said she was really taken aback by the diagnosis because there is no history of this condition in her family or in her husband's family that they are aware of. She told me that this Treacher Collins syndrome has the potential to cause a lot of serious symptoms, including facial bone pain.

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