The craniofacial skeleton is often described in the clinical literature as being comprised of vertical bony pillars, which transmit forces from the toothrow to the neurocranium as axial compressive stresses, reinforced transversely by buttresses. Here, we review the literature on bony microarchitecture, in vivo bone strain, and finite-element modeling of the facial skeleton of humans and nonhuman primates to address questions regarding the structural and functional existence of facial pillars and buttresses. Available bone material properties data do not support the existence of pillars and buttresses in humans or Sapajus apella. Deformation regimes in the zygomatic complex emphasize bending and shear, therefore conceptualizing the zygomatic complex of humans or nonhuman primates as a pillar obscures its patterns of stress, strain, and deformation. Human fossil relatives and chimpanzees exhibit strain regimes corroborating the existence of a canine-frontal pillar, but the notion of a zygomatic pillar has no support. The emerging consensus on patterns of strain and deformation in finite element models (FEMs) of the human facial skeleton corroborates hypotheses in the clinical literature regarding zygomatic complex function, and provide new insights into patterns of failure of titanium and resorbable plates in experimental studies. It is suggested that the "pillar and buttress" model of human craniofacial skeleton function be replaced with FEMs that more accurately and precisely represent in vivo function, and which can serve as the basis for future research into implants used in restoration of occlusal function and fracture repair. Anat Rec, 299:1753-1778, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Keywords: buttresses; dental implants; pillars; zygomatic fractures; zygomaticomaxillary complex.
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.