Soft palate

Soft palate

The soft palate (or velum, or muscular palate) is the soft tissue constituting the back of the roof of the mouth. The soft palate is distinguished from the hard palate at the front of the mouth in that it does not contain bone.


It is movable, consisting of muscle fibers sheathed in mucous membrane, and is responsible for closing off the nasal passages during the act of swallowing, and is also responsible for closing off the airway.

The soft palate's motion during breathing is responsible for the sound of snoring. Touching the soft palate evokes a strong gag reflex in most people.

The soft palate retracts and elevates during speech to separate the oral cavity (mouth) from the nasal cavity in order to produce the oral speech sounds. If this separation is incomplete, air escapes through the nose, causing the speech to be perceived as hyper nasal. While sneezing it protects nasal passage by diverting a part of substance to be thrown out to mouth.

Muscles of soft palate

Muscle Action Nerve
levator veli palatini deglutition Vagus nerve via pharyngeal plexus
tensor veli palatini deglutition mandibular nerve
palatoglossus respiration Vagus nerve via pharyngeal plexus
palatopharyngeus respiration Vagus nerve via pharyngeal plexus
musculus uvulae moves uvula Vagus nerve via pharyngeal plexus

Additional images

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