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All About the Hard Palate

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Your palate may love fine food and drinks. Or your palette may be the foundation for a beautiful piece of art. Those are possibilities. A reality, though, is that your hard palate, a different kind of palate, plays a significant role in your oral health. The hard palate is the roof of your mouth and it's not only impressive but important too.

Palate Anatomy

Your hard palate is that bony part found at the top of your mouth near the front of your oral cavity. With a hard palate comes a soft palate located in the back of your oral cavity with a much more fleshy-like surface. Your hard palate plays a significant role as it separates the oral cavity from the nasal cavity while also aiding swallowing and speaking. Translation — it's a big deal.

Feeding and Speech Complications

If you've ever seen a baby with a cleft palate, it can break your heart. It's a disorder that consists of an opening within the hard palate that doesn't entirely fuse as it should and could extend to their nose or lips. It's one of the most common congenital disabilities in babies and can be extremely unsettling for parents.

A cleft palate could cause:

  • Difficulty with breastfeeding
  • Hearing problems
  • Dental issues
  • Speech difficulties
  • Social, emotional, behavioral issues

Some factors might put your baby at a higher risk of developing a cleft palate, notes the Mayo Clinic, including genetic family history, as well as smoking, drinking, or drug use during pregnancy, and other health issues. The good news — surgery and therapy can help remedy the look and complications a cleft palate may cause.

Oral Cancer and the Hard Palate

While a cleft palate is usually something addressed early on in childhood, cancer could strike at any time. There's a natural opening in the hard palate for nerves and blood vessels that's an ideal route for a tumor to make its way into the oral cavity. Possible causes for palate cancer include drinking, smoking, and reverse smoking (inserting the lit end of a cigarette into your mouth instead). Symptoms may include:

  • Mouth ulcer or mass growth
  • Foul odor
  • Loss of teeth
  • Speech issues
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Jaw function
  • Lumps in the neck

Treatment possibilities consist of radiation, chemotherapy, chemoradiation (a combination of both), and surgery, the preferred route for the hard palate, says Cedars-Sinai. It's possible some bone could be removed along with the tumor. If a portion of the palate needs to be removed, there are denture-like prostheses that resemble teeth and the roof of your mouth.

Oral Effects of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Your hard palate can also be affected in other ways, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Two specific ones could impact the health of your hard palate:

  • Syphilis
    • This disease can leave lesions on both palates, lip, and tongue
  • HPV
    • Papillary or ulcerative white patches or warts have been known to form on the hard and soft palate if infected with this STD

If you experience anything like this, consult your doctor immediately for an STI screening and possible treatment options.

Like most parts of your body, seeing your dental professional and/or physician is essential. It allows them to properly examine your hard palate during regular checkups or if something irregular occurs. So make it easy on yourself and keep that hard palate of yours healthy.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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