The mandible
The human skull, with the mandible shown in purple at the bottom.
Precursor1st branchial arch[1]
Anatomical terms of bone

The mandible, lower jaw or jawbone is the largest, strongest and lowest bone in the human face.[2] It forms the lower jaw and holds the lower teeth in place. The mandible sits beneath the maxilla. The mandible is the only movable bone of the skull not counting the ossicles of the middle ear.

The bone is formed from a fusion of left and right processes, and the point where these sides join, the mandibular symphysis, is still visible as a faint ridge in the midline. Like other symphyses in the body, this is a midline articulation where the bones are joined by fibrocartilage, but this articulation fuses together in early childhood.[3]

The word mandible derives from Latin mandibula "jawbone" (literally 'one used for chewing'), from mandere "to chew" and -bula (instrumental suffix).


Mandible, lateral surface, side view


Mandible, medial surface, side view

The mandible consists of:

  • The body, found at the front
  • A ramus on the left and the right, the rami rise up from the body of the mandible and meet with the body at the angle of the mandible or the gonial angle.


The body of the mandible is curved somewhat like a horseshoe and has two surfaces and two borders.

From the outside, the mandible is marked in the midline by a faint ridge, indicating the symphysis or line of junction of the two pieces of which the bone is composed at an early period of life. This ridge divides below and encloses a triangular eminence, the mental protuberance, the base of which is depressed in the center but raised on either side to form the mental tubercle. On either side of the symphysis, just below the incisor teeth, is a depression, the incisive fossa, which gives origin to the mentalis and a small portion of the orbicularis oris. Below the second premolar tooth, on either side, midway between the upper and lower borders of the body, is the mental foramen, for the passage of the mental vessels and nerve. Running backward and upward from each mental tubercle is a faint ridge, the oblique line, which is continuous with the anterior border of the ramus; it affords attachment to the depressor labii Inferioris and depressor anguli oris; the platysma is attached below it.

From the inside, the mandible appears concave. Near the lower part of the symphysis is a pair of laterally placed spines, termed the mental spines, which give origin to the genioglossus. Immediately below these is a second pair of spines, or more frequently a median ridge or impression, for the origin of the geniohyoid. In some cases, the mental spines are fused to form a single eminence, in others they are absent and their position is indicated merely by an irregularity of the surface. Above the mental spines, a median foramen and furrow are sometimes seen; they mark the line of union of the halves of the bone. Below the mental spines, on either side of the middle line, is an oval depression for the attachment of the anterior belly of the digastric. Extending upward and backward on either side from the lower part of the symphysis is the mylohyoid line, which gives origin to the mylohyoid; the posterior part of this line, near the alveolar margin, gives attachment to a small part of the Constrictor pharyngis superior, and to the pterygomandibular raphé. Above the anterior part of this line is a smooth triangular area against which the sublingual gland rests, and below the hinder part, an oval fossa for the submaxillary gland.


  • The superior or alveolar border, wider behind than in front, is hollowed into cavities, for the reception of the teeth; these cavities are sixteen in number and vary in depth and size according to the teeth which they contain. To the outer lip of the superior border, on either side, the buccinator is attached as far forward as the first molar tooth.
  • The inferior border is rounded, longer than the superior, and thicker in front than behind; at the point where it joins the lower border of the ramus a shallow groove; for the facial artery, may be present.


The ramus (Latin: branch) of the human mandible has four sides, two surfaces, four borders, and two processes.

On the outside, the ramus is flat and marked by oblique ridges at its lower part; it gives attachment throughout nearly the whole of its extent to the masseter.

On the inside, the mandible presents about its center the oblique mandibular foramen, for the entrance of the inferior alveolar vessels and nerve. The margin of this opening is irregular; it presents in front a prominent ridge, surmounted by a sharp spine, the lingula mandibulae, which gives attachment to the sphenomandibular ligament; at its lower and back part is a notch from which the mylohyoid groove runs obliquely downward and forward, and lodges the mylohyoid vessels and nerve. Behind this groove is a rough surface, for the insertion of the internal pterygoid muscle. The mandibular canal runs obliquely downward and forward in the ramus, and then horizontally forward in the body, where it is placed under the alveoli and communicates with them by small openings. On arriving at the incisor teeth, it turns back to communicate with the mental foramen, giving off two small canals which run to the cavities containing the incisor teeth. In the posterior two-thirds of the bone the canal is situated nearer the internal surface of the mandible; and in the anterior third, nearer its external surface. It contains the inferior alveolar vessels and nerve, from which branches are distributed to the teeth.


  • The lower border of the ramus is thick, straight, and continuous with the inferior border of the body of the bone. At its junction with the posterior border is the angle of the mandible, which may be either inverted or everted and is marked by rough, oblique ridges on each side, for the attachment of the masseter laterally, and the Pterygoideus internus medially; the stylomandibular ligament is attached to the angle between these muscles. The anterior border is thin above, thicker below, and continuous with the oblique line.
  • The region where the lower border meets the posterior border is the angle of the mandible, often called the gonial angle.
  • The posterior border is thick, smooth, rounded, and covered by the parotid gland. The upper border is thin, and is surmounted by two processes, the coronoid in front and the condyloid behind, separated by a deep concavity, the mandibular notch.


  • The coronoid process is a thin, triangular eminence, which is flattened from side to side and varies in shape and size.
  • The condyloid process is thicker than the coronoid, and consists of two portions: the condyle, and the constricted portion which supports it, the neck.
  • The mandibular notch, separating the two processes, is a deep semilunar depression and is crossed by the masseteric vessels and nerve.


Body of the mandible. The mandibular foramen is labeled on the right, and the mental foramen is the small unlabelled hole visible near on the left

The mandible has two main holes (foramen), found on both its right and left sides:

  • The mandibular foramen, above the mandibular angle in the middle of the ramus.
  • The mental foramen sit on either side of the mental protuberance (chin) on the body of mandible, usually inferior to the apices of the mandibular first and second premolars. As mandibular growth proceeds in young children, the mental foramen alters in direction of its opening from anterior to posterosuperior. The mental foramen allows the entrance of the mental nerve and blood vessels into the mandibular canal.[3]


A panoramic radiographic reveals the mandible, including the heads and necks of the mandibular condyles, the coronoid processes of the mandible, as well as the nasal antrum and the maxillary sinuses.

The Inferior alveolar nerve, a branch of the mandibular division of the trigeminal nerve, enters the mandibular foramen and runs forward in the mandibular canal, supplying sensation to the teeth. At the mental foramen, the nerve divides into two terminal branches: incisive and mental nerves. The incisive nerve runs forward in the mandible and supplies the anterior teeth. The mental nerve exits the mental foramen and supplies sensation to the lower lip.


Males generally have squarer, stronger, and larger mandibles than females. The mental protuberance is more pronounced in males but can be visualized and palpated in females.[citation needed]

Rarely, a bifid inferior alveolar nerve may be present, in which case a second mandibular foramen, more inferiorly placed, exists and can be detected by noting a doubled mandibular canal on a radiograph.[3]

Other Languages
العربية: فك سفلي
čeština: Dolní čelist
Deutsch: Unterkiefer
español: Mandíbula
Esperanto: Mandiblo
فارسی: فک پایین
galego: Mandíbula
Հայերեն: Ստորին ծնոտ
ქართული: მანდიბულები
Bahasa Melayu: Tulang rahang
norsk: Underkjeve
norsk nynorsk: Underkjeve
සිංහල: අධෝහනුව
Simple English: Mandible
Tiếng Việt: Xương hàm dưới