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Hard palate

Anatomy and function of the hard palate.

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Hello there! It’s Matt from Kenhub, and in this tutorial, we will be discussing the hard palate. The hard palate is the anterior bony subsection of the palate that comprises approximately two-thirds of the mouth. The anterior portion is bordered anteriorly and laterally by the maxillary teeth. Superiorly, it is covered by the respiratory epithelium of the nasal cavity and inferiorly by the masticatory epithelium of the oral cavity. Posteriorly, the hard palate is connected to the soft palate which is a purely muscular structure.

The function of the hard palate is both feeding and speech. Before modern surgeries were developed, infants with defective palates couldn't suckle and would often die. The hard palate creates a vacuum which forces the liquid into the mouth so that it can be ingested in both adults and infants. It is also essential, along with the tongue, to create certain phonetic sounds. The hard palate separates the oral and nasal cavities bordering the oral cavity superiorly and forming the roof of the mouth and the nasal cavity inferiorly which define its floor.

The bony structure of the hard palate is comprised of three cranial bones: the maxilla and the paired palatine bones. Anteriorly, the palatine process of the maxilla covers the area between the two sides of the maxillary dental arch until it meets the two horizontal palatine processes posteriorly. These processes are fused down the midline as the two embryonic palatine shelves of the maxilla.

In the anterior midline, the incisive foramen that is seen here highlighted in green can be found. This foramen transmits the terminal branches of the nasopalatine nerve and the sphenopalatine arteries and veins. Posterolaterally, 1 centimeter medial from the second maxillary molar, the greater and lesser palatine foramina can be found. We can see the foramina on these images highlighted in green. The greater foramen is seated just anterior to the lesser palatine foramen. They transmit the greater and lesser palatine nerves and vessels respectively.

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