Mewing: How It Works, How to Do It, and Why Not To

Mewing: How It Works, How to Do It, and Why Not To
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Table of Contents

  1. What Is Mewing?
  2. Purpose
  3. Origins
  4. Does It Work?
  5. Face Shape
  6. How to Mew (Step-by-Step)
  7. Risks
  8. References

Mewing is the practice of repositioning the tongue inside the mouth with the goal of changing one’s jaw line and, therefore, one’s appearance.

The practice is named for British orthodontist Dr. John Mew but borrows from the functional matrix hypothesis of Melvin Moss.

Proponents believe tongue posture exercises could help straighten misaligned teeth and jaws.

What Is Mewing?

Mewing is all about shifting the natural resting position of your tongue from the bottom of your mouth to the roof of your mouth (the palate).

Proponents of this do-it-yourself practice believe that it can help restructure your face and create a well-defined jawline.

Named for British orthodontist John Mew, mewing is as controversial as it is popular on social media. Critics have a number of misgivings about the practice, although believers are bought into the “tongue posturing” craze.

Most orthodontists and facial reconstruction surgeons refute the promise that mewing is an effective alternative to jaw alignment surgery or standard teeth straightening therapies.

Purpose of Mewing

A growing online movement of enthusiasts around the world promotes mewing at home for therapeutic or cosmetic benefits. According to them, consistent tongue posture routines and patience can help dramatically transform the shape of your face.

Sought-after cosmetic benefits of mewing for adults and children include:

  • A stronger, attractive jawline
  • Prominent malar eminences: enhancement of the midfacial area

Here are some of the issues mewing allegedly treats (disputed medical claims):

  • Sleep apnea
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Speech problems
  • Jaw joint issues, including pain
  • Sinusitis

Origins of Mewing

Mew introduced the concept of “orthotropic” treatment, which later gave rise to the modern-day practice of mewing. Although orthotropics was Mew’s idea, he borrowed from Melvin Moss’s functional matrix theory.

Introduced in a dental textbook in 1962, the functional matrix hypothesis (FMH) postulates that all facial bones, including jaws and teeth, attain optimal development when people use them consistently and correctly. Moss believed bones do not grow. Instead, they are grown through use.

Recent technological innovations in the areas of engineering, computer science and morphogenetics lead Moss to double down on his theory, saying that more data from genetic studies “strongly support the primary role of function on craniofacial growth and development.”

Based on this idea, Mew argued that jaw and tongue malfunctions can cause teeth/jaw misalignments or other facial deformities.

If that’s true, then tongue posture exercises could help straighten misaligned teeth and jaws. Mew isn’t a licensed orthodontist anymore, but his concept inspires the ongoing “mewing frenzy” across the web.

Does Mewing Work?

Most personalities popularizing mewing on YouTube aren’t board-certified dentists, licensed orthodontists or jaw surgeons. That lack of credentialing is a shortfall for anyone recommending the procedure to correct facial bone deformities.

In any case, facial restructuring, including for esthetic purposes, usually requires surgery performed by an oral and maxillofacial skeletal surgeon. The same applies to jaw or chin surgery to correct a misaligned jaw or straighten the teeth.  

After teeth straightening surgery, the patient also needs to use orthodontic appliances like braces or aligners to complete treatment. It’s not possible to replacing these conventional treatments with tongue posture exercises by any stretch of imagination.

Another concern is the lack of credible scientific research proving the efficacy of mewing as a medical option. Until this is addressed, you should still see an orthodontist or a doctor if you have any teeth or jaw-related abnormality or discomfort.

These misgivings don’t mean that tongue postures have no therapeutic value. Oral devices that keep the tongue in a specific position can help some sleep apnea patients breathe better.

Also, some current critics of orthotropics believe that the concept isn’t entirely far-fetched and may help improve the field of jaw surgery in the future.

Can Mewing Change Your Face Shape?

Most advocates of mewing believe that the practice can help restructure the face and make it more attractive. However, some caution that it may take years of patience before the cosmetic payoff is realized.

How to Mew (Step by Step)

Based on orthotropics, your genes don’t specify the jaw and tongue position necessary for optimal facial contouring. You can reportedly solve this problem with mewing by creating the right environment to develop and define your jawline.

Here are the proposed mewing steps:

  • Relax and close your lips
  • With your lips sealed and teeth in contact, lift your tongue and press it against the roof of your mouth
  • Repeat these steps multiple times as regularly as possible

Your tongue should gradually get used to resting against the palate instead of the floor of your mouth. Once you’ve mastered these mewing basics, you may explore proposed exercises for correcting the jawline, face, and chest positions.

The supplementary posture routines train your body to stay upright when sitting or standing.

Risks

Tongue posturing for teeth straightening and jaw alignment isn’t the real danger in mewing. What’s more scary is the potential damage when some patients replace conventional treatments like jaw surgery or orthodontics with widely disputed alternatives.

There may be no harm if you’re mewing for fun. But weigh the time investment against the possibility that it may not work at all.

Some people may have embraced the trending health craze because they’re too worried over their physical appearance. Instead of fixing their insecurity, mewing could exacerbate their mental disorder.

References

Mewing: Social Media's Alternative to Orthognathic Surgery? (March 2019). Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. 

Obstructive Sleep Apnea. (July 2021). Mayo Clinic.

Mewing: What is the YouTube Craze That Claims to Reshape Your Face? (March 2019). The Guardian.

The functional matrix revisited. 3. The genomic thesis. (September 1997). American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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