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Soft palate

Anatomy, function and definition of the soft palate.

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Hello again everyone! It’s Matt from Kenhub, and in this tutorial, we will be discussing the soft palate. The soft palate is the posterior muscular extension of the hard palate which together makes up the palate of the oral cavity and the floor of the nasal cavity. This video will discuss the soft palate including its borders, its function, its general anatomy, and its musculature.

The soft palate is a purely muscular structure. It is bordered superiorly by the respiratory mucosa of the nasal cavity and inferiorly by the mucosa of the oral cavity. Posteriorly, it has no borders and hangs at an inferior angle towards the larynx where it dangles the uvula in its midline. Posterolaterally, however, it forms part of the superior portion of the palatoglossal and palatopharyngeal folds. Anteriorly, it is connected to the bony hard palate via an aponeurotic plate at the level of the vibrating line.

The soft palate is multifunctional and aids speech and the pronunciation of velar consonants along with the dorsum of the tongue. When swallowing, it rises to close the nasal passages and prevents any food or liquid from entering into the nasal cavity. It does the same thing for the larynx when sneezing. The uvula helps produce the gag reflex when touched. The soft palate makes up approximately one third of the posterior portion of the palate. Its oral mucosal lining is covered with mucous secreting salivary glands. It has no bony frame and is made up entirely of various muscle fibers.

The musculature is comprised of five main structures including the musculus uvulae, the tensor veli palatini, the levator veli palatini, the palatopharyngeus muscle, and the palatoglossus muscle. It is innervated by the pharyngeal plexus which takes its motor fibers from the vagus nerve (the tenth cranial nerve) and the cranial portion of the accessory nerve (the eleventh cranial nerve). This plexus innervates all soft palate muscles except the tensor veli palatini muscle.

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