The palate serves as the roof of the mouth and the floor of the nasal cavity. It is made up of two areas known as the hard palate and the soft palate. This article will provide an overview of the palate as a whole and a brief summary of one of the palatal anomalies that may occur in some patients.
The Hard Palate
The hard palate is the anterior part of the palate which consists of the two palatine shelves of the maxilla which are fused down the midline, as well as the two palatine processes of the palatine bones. It it covered on its superior aspect by respiratory mucosa and by oral mucosa on its inferior aspect, which covers a layer of periosteum and mucous secreting salivary glands. The palatine raphe runs down the midline as a groove and represents the embryonic fusion of the palatine shelves.
The hard palate contains five foramina which include the incisive fossa, a pair of greater palatine foramina and a pair of lesser palatine foramina. The incisive fossa contains the nasopalatine nerves and sits directly behind the central incisors. The greater palatine foramina, which are just medial to the third molar, contain the greater palatine nerves and vessels. The lesser palatine foramina contain the lesser palatine nerves and vessels and sit just posterior to the greater palatine foramina.
The Soft Palate
The soft palate sits posterior to the hard palate and is known as such due to the fact that it has no bony skeleton and is therefore movable. It attaches to the hard palate via an aponeurotic plate and has a muscular plate posteriorly which is comprised of the tensor veli palatini muscle. A conical projection of the posterior free edge that hangs down into the oropharynx is known as the uvula.