Have you ever noticed that the floor of your mouth moves when you swallow? This area is made up of several muscles, including one called the mylohyoid muscle. Here's what you need to know about this important muscle and how it helps your mouth function properly.
The mylohyoid muscle is actually a pair of muscles that form part of the floor of the mouth, as highlighted in Physiopedia. The muscle pair attaches to a ridge on the inner surface of the lower jawbone, called the mylohyoid line. The right and left sides of the muscle meet in the middle, forming a seam called a raphe. This raphe extends from a ridge in the center of your lower jawbone (called the symphysis menti) to the hyoid bone, which is located in the front of the neck, beneath the chin.
The blood supply for this muscle comes from the sublingual artery, and its nerve supply comes from the mylohyoid nerve, which is a minor branch of the trigeminal nerve (one of the major nerves in the head).
Mylohyoid Muscle Function
While you probably don't give much thought to this muscle, it plays an important role in your mouth. When you swallow, it helps raise the floor of your mouth, notes Physiopedia. This function makes it essential for daily functions, such as talking and chewing.
RanulaLike any other part of the mouth, this muscle can sometimes be affected by oral health issues. A type of cyst called a ranula can form in the floor of the mouth. A review published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research (JCDR) explains that these cysts can form due to trauma or a blocked salivary gland. It usually looks like a bluish swelling on the floor of the mouth. A specific type of ranula known as a plunging ranula may occur due to mucous blockage through the mylohyoid muscle.
Oral CancerIn rare circumstances, oral cancer can affect this muscle. When cancer forms in this area, it's called floor of mouth cancer. Cedars-Sinai explains that this type of cancer makes up 28 to 35 percent of all mouth cancers. However, not all cysts affecting the floor of the mouth are cancerous. There are also a number of benign (meaning harmless) lesions that can grow around the mylohyoid muscle, according to a study in the National Journal of Maxillofacial Surgery.
Seek Help From Your Dentist
Rest assured that treatments are available for these issues. Talk to your dentist if you notice any changes in the floor of your mouth. If necessary, they can perform diagnostic tests to determine the cause or refer you to the appropriate specialist.
To diagnose a ranula, your medical or dental professional may collect a sample of the cyst's fluid or use imaging technology, according to the JCDR review. Treatments for ranulas can include laser or surgical removal, as well as non-invasive alternatives.
During a routine dental exam, a dentist may perform an oral cancer screening, at which time they may discover there is cancer in the floor of the mouth. They may also perform diagnostic tests, including biopsies, if required. When floor of the mouth cancer is discovered in its early stages, it's often treated with surgery, reports Cedars-Sinai. More advanced cancers may be treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
If you are ever concerned that you may have a condition affecting the floor of your mouth or your mylohyoid muscle, know that your medical or dental professional can help determine the right treatment to help you stay healthy.