Anatomy & Organs

Suprahyal muscles – structure, function & diseases

Suprahyal muscles

The suprahyal muscles are located on the floor of the mouth and have the task of pulling the hyoid bone upwards. It is formed by four muscles and is used to open the jaw directly . By elevating the floor of the mouth, it is integral to chewing , swallowing , and speaking . It is also referred to as the upper hyoid muscles. Its counterpart is the infrahyal muscles, which pull the hyoid bone down.

What is the suprahyal musculature?

The hyoid bone, a two to three centimeter curved bone below the tongue , is suspended only by its muscles and ligaments at the base of the skull and has no direct connection with the skeleton .

It thus functions like a swing, with the larynx and trachea located at the lower end . This structure gives the tongue its great mobility. A fracture of the hyoid bone indicates violence against the neck, for example by strangulation, which is why it is primarily examined during an autopsy. The hyoid bone supports the base of the tongue and can be felt and moved slightly from the outside between the throat and the floor of the mouth.

Anatomy & Structure

The upper hyoid muscles act on the hyoid bone from the head side, the lower ones from the neck area. The suprahyal (also suprahyoid) muscle groups are assigned to the digastric muscle , the mylohyoid muscle , the stylohyoid muscle and the geniohyoid muscle .The digastric muscle is called two-bellied, is located on the outer floor of the mouth and is connected laterally to the hyoid bone by means of a switch tendon. The front of its two bellies runs obliquely forward to the inside of the chin, the rear obliquely backwards to the base of the skull. The stylohyoid muscle is arranged parallel to the posterior abdomen. The right and left musculus geniohyoideus (chin-hyoid muscle) lie directly next to each other in the upper area of ​​the floor of the mouth.

Together, the suprahyal muscles pull the larynx (voice box), attached to the hyoid bone, toward the back of the tongue. There the epiglottis (covering of the throat) bends and lies over the entrance to the larynx. This guarantees that nothing goes down the “wrong throat” when swallowing. The infrahyal muscle groups then bring the larynx and hyoid bone back into their respective starting positions.

Function & Tasks

The superior and inferior hyoid muscles together form a sling that encircles and can fix the hyoid bone. Only then is the process of opening the mouth possible, for example. Every tongue movement also works in this way. The entire hyoid bone muscles are also involved in bending the cervical spine and the head. The muscle sling can even function as respiratory muscles if necessary.

The tension of the suprahyal muscles is also important for the optimal functioning of the temporomandibular joint, the mobile connection between the lower jaw and large parts of the skull. If asymmetries occur in this area (e.g. after dental treatment) that are not corrected, this can have a negative impact on the reliable interaction of the hyoid muscles. As a result, the masticatory muscles are often affected as well. In addition to the many different muscle strands, the human tongue is also criss-crossed by four large nerve tracts. Through these, the tongue is connected to internal organs such as the liver and stomach . If diseases or deficiencies appear there, this shows changes in the tongue or theOral mucosa (shape, color) often immediately. In this respect, the tongue is considered a kind of display window for the digestive tract .

Certain coatings on the tongue can be linked by any doctor to diseases of the internal organs. If the mobility of the tongue is restricted or if there are problems with swallowing, injuries or inflammation of the suprahyal muscles can also be a cause.


A healthy tongue is flexible in all directions, pale red in color, and always moist. The surface is usually smooth. A thin whitish coating on the surface of the tongue indicates that food is digesting properly in the stomach.A changed appearance of the tongue can also indicate mostly harmless diseases in the mouth itself. An example is the “hairy tongue”, which becomes noticeable with a conspicuous keratinization of the tongue surface. In these cases, those affected have the feeling that hair is growing on their tongues. The blackening of the tongue (“Lingua nigra”) can come from excessive smoking and is not yet a dangerous disease. However, in addition to nicotine, heavy alcohol consumption and the insidious papillomaviruses are fundamental enemies of a healthy tongue.

In their aggressive forms, these can under certain circumstances promote severe cancerous growths that settle in the cervix , in the oral cavity or in the larynx. Cancer can also attack the tongue itself. A burning tongue when consuming highly acidic foods may be a sign of tongue cancer . It becomes alarming when small ulcers develop on the tongue that do not go away within four to six weeks.

The onset of tongue cancer is often accompanied by loss of function of the tongue, which is associated with damage to the suprahyal muscles. These impairments are particularly noticeable when speaking, swallowing and tasting. Thorough and regular tongue cleaning is a preventive measure against many diseases of the tongue or mucous membranes . If changes appear on the surface of the tongue, a doctor should be consulted in good time.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.