What is the Anatomy of the Skull?

Bobbie Fredericks

The anatomy of the skull consists of the cranium, which houses the brain, and the facial bones. There are a total of 22 bones in the skull. The bones of the cranium are held together by sutures.

A doctor looking at a head X-ray.
A doctor looking at a head X-ray.

When the skull bones first form, the sutures are not solid bone. This allows for the fetus to pass through the birth canal. At birth, the anatomy of the skull includes several soft spots, called fontanels. These allow for even more flexibility of the fetal skull.

The complete anatomy of the skull consists of the cranium and the many facial bones.
The complete anatomy of the skull consists of the cranium and the many facial bones.

During childhood, the fontanels close and the sutures harden. Sometimes this happens prematurely, a disorder known as craniosynostosis. Usually only one suture is affected, and surgery is required to avoid permanent deformity and possible brain damage.

There are eight bones that make up the cranium. The frontal bone is the foremost bone, and makes up the forehead. Behind the frontal bone are two parietal bones, attached to it by the coronal suture. Directly behind the parietal bones, attached by the lambdoidal sutures, is the occipital bone, a small bone at the back of the skull. On each side of the skull under the parietal bones is a temporal bone, attached by the squamosal sutures.

Two of the smaller bones in the anatomy of the skull are the ethmoid and sphenoid bones. They are also part of the cranium. The ethmoid bone is between the eyes, and separates the nasal cavity from the brain. In front of the temporaly bone is the sphenoid bone, which is shaped like a butterfly.

There are 14 facial bones. Most of the facial bones are very small and come in pairs. The nasal bones are two small, oblong bones at the top of the nose, which are connected at the middle in what is known as the bridge of the nose. Flexible cartilage makes up the end of the nose. From the nasal cavity and running through the space between the two nasal bones is the vomer bone.

Two maxillae form the upper jaw. Part of the maxillae is the hard palate in the roof of the mouth, and is also made up in part by the palatine bones, which are fused together. The mandible is the lower jaw, and the largest bone in the anatomy of the skull. It is the only skull bone that moves.

The two lacrimal bones are located in the inner corners of the eyes. These are the smallest and most fragile bones in the anatomy of the skull. They are covered by the lacrimal glands, which secrete tears.

Zygomatic bones are commonly known as cheek bones. They also form part of the eye socket. The fused palatine bones also make up a part of the eye socket.

The inferior nasal conchae are curled, spongy bones that project into the nasal cavity. Their purpose is to filter and warm air that is inhaled through the nose. They accomplish this by forcing the air through mucous and tiny hairs called cilia.

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