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Head and Neck Anatomy: Part III – Cranial Nerves

Course Number: 598


This three-part course presents basic facts and concepts of head and neck anatomy. The course is not intended to replace an in-depth study of anatomy but is a guide to review the basics of anatomy as it relates to the dental field. It is essential for all dental professionals to recognize the normal appearance and functions of the head and neck. Nerves are of paramount importance to the proper functioning of all parts of the body as they sense the external and internal environments and constantly adjust to maintain homeostasis. In the head and much of the neck the cranial nerves are the connections between the brain and the body. Therefore, understanding their location and function is a key to understanding the normal function of the stomatognathic system and many pathologies one might encounter as a dental professional.

A note to the student – The study of head and neck anatomy is not a murder mystery where you cannot stop reading to see which of the characters was the killer and their motivation. Anatomy is full of terminology and should not be read as one would read a novel. It is easy to conflate the information if read all at once. You should take breaks on occasion to allow what you have read to sink in before attacking yet another set of structures.

Words are not sufficient to understand this topic so referring to diagrams is absolutely necessary. The diagrams have been placed near the text that it refers to and should be, if possible, on the screen as one reads the text and referred to often. As the pathways of the nerves refer to both bones and muscles plus the endpoint of motor nerves is skeletal muscle you should be familiar with the bony structures of the head covered in Head and Neck Anatomy: Part I – Bony Structure (CE591) and the muscles covered in Head and Neck Anatomy: Part II – Musculature (CE597) prior to attempting this course.