What Is the Name of the Jawbone?

Medically Reviewed on 8/23/2021
what is the name of the jawbone
Your jaw is made up of two bones: upper jaw (maxilla) and lower jaw (mandible). Learn about the anatomy of the jaw and why it’s important

The jaw is made up of two main parts: 

  • Upper jaw bone, called the maxilla
    • Holds the teeth in the upper jaw 
    • Helps form the nose, palate, and orbit (bony socket housing the eyeballs and other supporting structures). 
  • Lower jaw bone, called the mandible (commonly referred to as the jawbone)
    • Largest, strongest, and the only mobile bone of the skull
    • Meets the temporal bone of the skull at the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which allows movement of the mandible

Both bones have several muscles, nerves, and blood vessels attached that help keep the jaw healthy. Besides holding the teeth in place, the jawbones also provide support to various soft tissue structures such as the tongue, lips, and muscles. 

Proper jawbone structure is needed to provide shape to the face, as well as to perform essential functions such as:

  • Chewing and biting
  • Making facial expressions
  • Speaking
  • Breathing 
  • Sleeping

What are common problems that affect the upper jaw?

Several abnormalities may affect the jaws. Although some may just affect the appearance of the person, others may significantly cause functional problems. Upper jaw conditions include:

  • Fractures: Since the maxilla is in the center of the face, the bone may be involved in face fractures. According to the Le Fort classification, fractures of the maxilla are of three types (Le Fort I, II, and II), depending on the fracture line.
  • Cleft palate: Cleft palate is a condition where there is an opening or a defect in the palate (roof of the mouth). It can cause problems with feeding and speech or frequent ear infections.
  • Sinusitis: Paranasal sinuses are hollow spaces in the bones around the nose. The upper jaw or maxilla has one paranasal sinus on either side of the nose in the maxillary bones. These sinuses may get infected or inflamed resulting in sinusitis, which may present as pain over the cheeks, headache, nasal stuffiness, and post-nasal drip (mucus discharge into the throat).
  • Infections: Maxillary bones may get infected and inflamed (osteomyelitis). Infections generally occur due to the spread from an infected tooth, particularly in people with weak immunity.
  • Recessed maxilla: Recessed maxilla is a condition in which the upper jaw is underdeveloped or set more posteriorly (toward the back) than normal. This may cause problems such as flat cheekbones, underbite, and malocclusion (misaligned teeth).


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What are common problems that affect the lower jaw?

Medical conditions that affect the lower jaw include:

  • Fractures: The mandible is a strong bone, and fractures rarely occur in isolation. Fracture on one side of the mandible is generally associated with a fracture on the contralateral side.
  • Problems related to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ): The TMJ attaches the mandible to the skull. It may be affected by several problems such as dislocation, arthritis, and infections.
  • Infections: The mandible may get infected (osteomyelitis), leading to severe damage if not treated in a timely manner.
  • Jaw alignment problems: These include conditions such as retrognathia (the lower jaw is positioned more posteriorly than normal), prognathic (the lower jaw is set more forward than normal), and microgenia (excessively small chin). These abnormalities may cause issues with chewing, speech, breathing, and appearance.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/23/2021