Soft palate

Last revised by Travis Fahrenhorst-Jones on 31 Aug 2021

The soft palate is the posterior part of the palate that is a mobile fold of soft tissue attached to the posterior border of the hard palate which laterally fuses with the lateral wall of the oropharynx. On its inferior oral surface it is lined by oral mucosa (which contains numerous palatine glands and some taste buds), and on its superior nasal surface it is lined by respiratory mucosa. It is reinforced by the palatine aponeurosis which forms the substrate for the palatal muscles to act upon.

The position and form of the soft palate are the result of five paired muscles, the so-called muscles of the soft palate:

Elevation of the soft palate helps protect the airway as its posterior border contacts the posterior wall of the pharynx to close off the nasopharynx during swallowing. In mastication it descends to close off the oropharynx from the oral cavity, likewise protecting the airway. It also has some function in phonation and the gag reflex.

Branches of several vessels contribute to a rich blood supply of the soft palate:

Similarly named veins of the soft palate drain to the pterygoid venous plexus.

The sensory innervation of the palate is provided by branches of the lesser palatine nerve which synapse in the pterygopalatine ganglion.

Special sensory taste fibers from the taste buds on the oral surface of the soft palate are supplied by fibers of the greater petrosal nerve.

Motor innervation of the muscles of the soft palate is provided by the pharyngeal plexus of nerves apart from tensor veli palatini which is innervated by the nerve to medial pterygoid (a branch of the mandibular division of the trigeminal nerve).

 

Anatomy: Head and neck

Anatomy: Head and neck

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