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What is Mewing, and Does it Work?

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What is Mewing, and Does it Work?

Mewing, a facial restructuring technique often hyped on social media, suggests that specific tongue positioning can enhance jawline definition and facial aesthetics. Originating from Dr. John Mew and later championed by his son, Dr. Mike Mew, this practice has sparked interest and debate among those seeking aesthetic improvement without invasive procedures.

This article aims to explore mewing's origins, and its proposed mechanism of action, and to examine the evidence, or lack thereof, behind the potential benefits of this practice. 

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The History of Mewing

Source: https://mewing.coach/blog/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/difference-between-hard-mewing-and-mewing-being-hard.jpg 

Mewing is a popularized facial restructuring technique that claims that tongue placement can influence the appearance of the jawline and enhance facial symmetry (17). This technique was initially developed by former UK-based orthodontist, Dr. John Mew. In a break from traditional orthodontics which focuses on proper tooth and jaw alignment via tools such as tooth extraction and mechanical braces, Mew created “orthotropics” which instead attempts to manipulate the growth pattern of facial bones to correct malocclusions (bite problems) (8). 

Mew believes that malocclusions do not stem solely from lower jaw issues in the mandible as is commonly accepted, but rather that both the mandible and the maxilla (upper jaw) grow as a pair, with the maxilla helping to determine tooth placement and jaw alignment (12). Because the maxilla bone is not entirely fixed in place during childhood, Mew believes that a protocol introduced at a young age that reinforces proper tongue posture closes the mouth at rest, and emphasizes hard foods in the diet will prevent the development of malocclusions in the first place. 

Mew claims that by resting the tongue on the roof of the mouth rather than the bottom, the tongue can support the maxilla encourage proper maxillary development, and prevent narrowing which could lead to crowded, misaligned teeth and lower jaw issues. Dr. John Mew has been practicing orthotropics since the 1970s and was later joined by his son, Dr. Mike Mew, at his clinic focusing on diet, tongue placement, and the use of palatal expanders in children to prevent the development of jaw issues. 

The concept of mewing was not popularized until 2018 when it first started making waves in the YouTube and TikTok community. The term “mewing" was coined not by the Mews themselves but by followers of Dr. Mike Mew’s videos on YouTube who saw orthotropics as an opportunity to improve their appearance even as adults (3). 

Since then, mewing has been promoted extensively on social media and by influencers who claim that the non-invasive technique has helped them gain stronger jawlines, improve their sleep, and promote nasal over mouth breathing. Rather than correct the notion that mewing can be effective in adulthood even after the cranial bones have fully developed, Dr. Mike Mews has leaned into this newfound celebrity and has begun taking adult patients at his clinic to see if orthotropics can be successfully applied to adults (3). 

What is Mewing and How It Works

Mewing focuses on training proper tongue posture by pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth, creating a snug curve that follows from the back of the front teeth to the back of the palate (17). The intention is that with practice this will become the tongue’s default resting position. In addition to tongue posture, mewing also includes closing the mouth and moving the jaw forward until the bottom teeth rest just behind the front teeth. A closed mouth is an important focus in orthotropics as it emphasizes nasal breathing while also maintaining proper oral posture (3). Finally, an erect body posture in which the jawline and face align with the chest is also recommended (12). Proponents of mewing believe that with regular practice, this can over time help retrain the maxilla into a more ideal position by spreading the force outward to help widen and strengthen the jaw (18). When done correctly, followers should feel a slight sensation of pressure along their palate, face, and jaw (17). 

Top 3 Claimed Benefits of Mewing

1. Strengthening the Jawline: 

  • One of its most popularized claims is that mewing can enhance the jawline and improve facial symmetry. The Mews believe that improper tongue posture and mouth breathing are part of the reason that jaw misalignment occurs in the first place, resulting in the mandible sitting further back than normal which causes the chin to recede and the face to appear long and narrow (3). 
  • Mewing therefore is meant to correct this misalignment by bringing the lower jaw forward and supporting the upper jaw with the force of the tongue resulting in a stronger, wider jaw. John Mew believes that once the upper jaw is fully supported, it can push up the cheekbones, making them more pronounced and helping to support the cartilage of the nose for an overall aesthetically improved appearance (3). 
  • The effects on the jawline can be seen immediately as the action of pressing the tongue to the roof of the mouth can pull the skin under the chin upward. However, any long-term effects meant to correct the initial narrowing of the maxilla would be expected to take years (5). 

2. Improved Teeth Alignment: 

  • Jawline expansion from mewing is proposed to help encourage healthy teeth alignment by creating more space in once-narrowed jaws. Without the burden of overcrowding, teeth should theoretically be able to align naturally without the need for mechanical braces (5). 
  • Mewing advocates claim that once the jaw is properly aligned and strengthened, chronic issues such as temporomandibular junction (TMJ) pain are alleviated. 

3. Improved Breathing Patterns: 

  • Mewing followers have also reported the benefits of breathing techniques. Keeping the lips closed helps to prevent mouth breathing and instead encourages nasal breathing. With regular practice, mewing is thought to help reduce involuntary mouth breathing, even while asleep (5). 
  • Nasal breathing at rest is beneficial as the nasal passages filter out potential allergens, and the turbinates moisten and warm the air as it enters the body, making it easier to absorb into the tissues (15). 
  • This benefit extends to sufferers of sleep apnea as the combination of nasal breathing along moving the jaw forward opens up the back of the mouth and throat, potentially increasing airway flow (9).

Examining the Evidence

Unfortunately, when it comes to evidence that mewing helps improve jaw and craniofacial bone alignment in adults, there is none. Any of the clinical evidence supporting orthotropics comes from anecdotal accounts from the Mews themselves rather than peer-reviewed research studies. Additionally, these biased accounts focus on the impacts of orthotropic practices on children, not adults, whose craniofacial structure is still developing and includes the use of devices such as palate expanders rather than mewing alone (3). 

Does this mean that mewing is completely unfounded? Not necessarily. John Mew’s ideas regarding the influence of environment and lifestyle on jaw alignment rather than solely on genetics are not original. Dr. Melvin Moss first developed the functional matrix hypothesis in 1962, which posits that facial bone development is heavily influenced by the functional demands placed on it (12). Indeed, this theory could explain the high rates of malocclusion and tooth misalignment relapses that occur after orthodontic treatment (3). 

There is some anthropological evidence that supports the functional matrix hypothesis, notably the trend of jaw shrinkage that began during the agricultural revolution, along with loss in muscle tone in the face and oropharynx. Changes in functional demands on the jaw, such as the introduction of eating utensils, the increased intake of soft foods in early development, and exposure to pollutants and allergens causing congestion and thus resulting in higher rates of mouth breathing, have all been put forth as possible contributors to loss of perioral muscle tone (10). However, it should be noted that the full extent of the role that environmental factors play versus genetics on craniofacial structure is not well understood and requires more research.  

A 2019 study looked at tongue positioning among participants who were grouped based on the sagittal angle of their jaw alignment and arch form. The researchers found a mild to moderate correlation between dental arch widths and tongue position. There was a notable but non-significant relationship found between jaw alignment and tongue posture. Although not necessarily compelling, these results do make the case that forces exerted by perioral muscles and the tongue may play a role in orthodontic pathologies such as malocclusion (7). 

Criticism and Skepticism

Although there is evidence for proper tongue positioning training to help with conditions such as sleep apnea and posture issues, there is no evidence to suggest that mewing can enhance the jawline and improve facial symmetry as its advocates claim. These claims have not been scientifically tested and many orthodontists fear that they are overblown and misleading. The Mews themselves have historically focused on treating young children during the period that the facial bones are still developing to help prevent malocclusion rather than to treat misalignments that have already occurred in adults (3). The risks involved with mewing are likely low, but orthodontists warn their followers that claims of noticeable changes in facial structure are unfounded (12). 

In addition to the lack of substantial evidence that supports mewing, numerous controversies surround both Drs. John and Mike Mew. In 2017, John Mew was stripped of his license to practice by the General Dental Council for misleading advertising that attacked the traditional orthodontic community as well as malpractice for treating a child after her parent withdrew consent (3). In 2022, Mike Mew faced charges of misconduct for his orthotropic treatments of two minor patients that were deemed unnecessary and which reportedly caused tooth recession in both patients and resulted in seizure-like episodes in one.

Alternatives to Mewing

As an alternative to mewing, there are other well-studied options available to those looking to improve their jaw and teeth alignment, facial symmetry, and breathing quality. Traditional orthodontics such as braces and clear aligners can help straighten crooked teeth and improve mild misalignments in the jaw (Burch). For more severe malocclusions, jaw surgery may be warranted. Myofunctional therapy helps to train the muscles of the face and can help eliminate habits such as mouth breathing and teeth grinding that can exacerbate craniofacial issues such as malocclusions and poor oral posture. Additionally, biofeedback can help train healthier breathing patterns to minimize mouth breathing and prevent bruxism

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Key Takeaways

  • Although mewing appears to be an attractive and low-risk method of improving facial aesthetics, its claims are scientifically unsubstantiated and likely overblown. 
  • The foundational principles draw from legitimate concerns about the impact of lifestyle and environmental factors on craniofacial development; however, rigorous scientific research to validate these claims is lacking. 
  • Given the dearth of empirical evidence and the controversies surrounding its founders, individuals interested in mewing should approach it with a critical eye. 
  • Consulting with healthcare professionals such as orthodontists and dentists is crucial to ensure both the efficacy and safety of any craniofacial treatment.
The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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