Dental students and practitioners require a sound knowledge of the structure, growth, and development of the skull as a whole. The structure of the skull can be examined and studied more efficiently if you have access to a dried skull or one of the very good plastic replica skulls which are now available; you can identify the structures on the diagrams accompanying the following descriptions and examine a skull at the same time to appreciate the size and relationships of individual components. This chapter outlines the basic principles of the development and structure of the skull and includes some reference to individual bones where this makes understanding easier. The more detailed aspects of particular regions of the skull will be covered in the appropriate chapter describing the whole anatomy of that region; it is much easier to learn the parts of the skull in context of overall structure and function rather than learning a long list of bones, foramina, and muscle attachments in isolation from the related soft tissue structures. Only the maxilla and mandible which are bones of significant clinical importance are described as separate bones. As already demonstrated in Chapter 20, the skull is the structural basis f or the anatomy of the head. The skull has many functions. • It encloses and protects the brain. • It provides protective capsules for the eyes and middle and inner ear. • It forms the skeleton of the entrances to the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts (GIT) through the nose and mouth, respectively. Those skull components that form the entrance to the GIT also house and support the teeth and soft tissues of the oral region as part of this function. As already outlined in Chapter 20, the skull is made up of several bones joined together to form the cranium which articulates with the separate mandible forming the lower jaw at the temporomandibular joints. The cranium specifically refers to the skull without the mandible; the terms ‘skull’ and ‘cranium’ are not strictly synonymous but they are frequently used as though they are. The cranium can be subdivided into the braincase enclosing the brain and the facial skeleton.
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