Health Topics

Velopharyngeal Dysfunction

Normal Velopharyngeal Function

To understand velopharyngeal dysfunction, you need to first understand normal velopharyngeal function for speech.

Figure 1 shows the structures of the roof of the mouth. These are the hard palate and the soft palate (also called the velum).

The velopharyngeal valve is very important for normal speech production. This valve is made up of the following structures:

  • Velum (also called soft palate)
  • Lateral pharyngeal walls – the side walls of the throat
  • Posterior pharyngeal wall – the back wall of the throat

Figure 2 shows the velum resting against the back of the tongue for nasal breathing. This allows the air that is inhaled through the nose to go through the throat (pharynx) to the lungs and back up again.

Figure 3 shows how the velum closes against the back wall of the throat during speech. The side walls close against the velum so that all of these come together as a valve. When the velopharyngeal valve closes, the air and sound are sent into the mouth for speech. 

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Types of Velopharyngeal Dysfunction

Velopharyngeal Dysfunction and Speech

Velopharyngeal Dysfunction Treatment

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Anatomy

Figure 1.  Anatomy of the oral cavity

Figure 1.  Anatomy of the oral cavity.


Figure 2.  Velum during nasal breathing

Figure 2.  Velum during nasal breathing.


Figure 3.  Velum during speech

Figure 3.  Velum during speech.


Figure 4.  Velopharyngeal insufficiency (the velum is too short for closure)

Figure 4.  Velopharyngeal insufficiency (the velum is too short for closure).


Figure 5.  Adenoids in the pharynx (throat)

Figure 5.  Adenoids in the pharynx (throat).


Figure 6.  Velopharyngeal incompetence (the velum doesn’t move well enough for closure)

Figure 6.  Velopharyngeal incompetence (the velum doesn’t move well enough for closure).


Illustrations from:
Kummer AW. (2014). Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Anomalies: Effects on Speech and Resonance, 3rd Edition. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Cengage.

Last Updated: 07/2013