The Human Body

Palate

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Palate, roof of the mouth, separating the mouth from the nasal cavities. The palate consists of two portions: the hard palate in front and the soft palate behind. The hard palate is formed of periosteum, a bony plate covered by mucous membrane, and arches over to meet the gums in front and on either side. The soft palate is a movable fold of mucous membrane enclosing muscular fibers. Its sides blend with the pharynx (throat), but its lower border is free. It is suspended from the rear of the hard palate so as to form a wall or division between the mouth and the pharynx. During swallowing, this wall is raised to close the entrance to the nasal passages. A small cone-shaped structure, the uvula, hangs from the lower border of the soft palate.

The condition called cleft palate is a birth defect that results from incomplete development of the palate. It is characterized by a hole or gap in the palate that may extend from behind the teeth to the nasal cavity.