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Management of acquired maxillary and hard palate defects

Daniel Buchbinder, DMD, MD
Devin J Okay, DDS
Section Editors
Bruce E Brockstein, MD
Marvin P Fried, MD, FACS
Deputy Editor
Michael E Ross, MD


Head and neck cancer and its treatment can cause significant difficulties in orofacial function and thus impair quality of life. When surgery results in a maxillary defect, morbidity can be due to nasal regurgitation (food, liquid, and sound) through the defect, loss of teeth and the inability to chew properly, malnutrition, impaired speech, and distortion of the facial appearance. Severe psychological issues can be a secondary consequence of these complications.

The approach to managing maxillary defects, including both the use of a prosthesis (obturator) and surgical reconstructive techniques, will be reviewed here. The management of soft palate and mandibular defects is discussed separately. (See "Mandibular and palatal reconstruction in patients with head and neck cancer".)


The goal of treatment is to restore function (mastication, swallowing, speech) and a normal appearance to the face. This may be accomplished either through artificial closure of the defect using an obturator prosthesis or through surgical reconstruction of the defect.

To do this requires:

Closure of the defect between the oral and nasal/sinus cavities


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Literature review current through: Oct 2015. | This topic last updated: Aug 13, 2015.
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