The human body is a fascinating machine. Different parts work together to perform functions critical to daily living. The mouth certainly falls into that category. But have you ever wondered which part of the mouth does what and how they all work together? The jaw is one of the key components to a properly functioning mouth. This is how the jaw works.
The jaw consists of two bones, the maxilla and the mandible, that shape a person’s mouth according to Encyclopedia Britannica. The upper jaw, known as the maxilla, is fixed in place. The lower jaw – the mandible – moves. Jaws work by moving in opposition to one another.
The mandible’s ability to move is what opens and closes the mouth notes Healthline.com. Food chewing results from the up and down action of the mandible. The bottom set of teeth are anchored in the lower jaw.
In addition to opening and closing the mouth, the lower jaw can also move from side to side. These actions are controlled by four muscles that connect to the mandible; the masseter, temporalis, medial pterygoid, and the lateral pterygoid. Those four muscles come in pairs; one on each side of the jaw.
Not only is the maxilla the upper half of the jaw, but it is a major facial bone that plays a bigger role in forming the skull according to Healthline.com. The maxilla is also the lower part of the eye sockets and the lower and side parts of the nasal and sinus cavities.
The maxilla is included in the facial part of the skull known as the viscerocranium. The viscerocranium houses bones and muscles that aid in the ability to chew food, speak, and breathe. The maxilla is also connected to muscles that help smile, frown and make faces.
Like any other body part, health issues can arise with the jaw. Braces is one way to correct some jaw problems, but orthodontics isn’t a guaranteed fix to what ails your jaw. Some folks turn to jaw surgery, also known as orthognathic surgery, for such problems as chewing issues, excessive tooth wear, facial injuries or birth defects, and sleep apnea relief notes The Mayo Clinic. But no surgical procedure is to be taken lightly. Risks to consider before undergoing jaw surgery include blood loss, nerve damage, infections, additional surgeries, and losing a section of the jaw.
If you’re having mouth issues, specifically with your jaw, consult a dentist. He can explain in detail how the jaw works, diagnose the problem, and help chart a proper course of action including non-surgical solutions.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Sam Muslin, DDS.
Steven Auger is a born and bred New Englander and lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Lauren, their young sons, Andrew and Adam, and their dog, Layla. In his spare time, he enjoys staying physically fit, traveling, and cooking. Follow him on Twitter.