Should You Try Mewing? Here's What the Research Says

Mewing is a facial reconstructing technique that involves keeping your tongue on the roof of your mouth to change your jawline's shape. Some supporters claim that if you mew, you can reshape your face for a more defined jawline — while also helping jaw pain, breathing, or orthodontic issues. 

However, mewing has a troubled history. And even though many YouTube and TikTok videos praise the practice, there's not much evidence that mewing actually works. Experts also warn that people with jaw issues needing surgery or orthodontic work shouldn't try mewing. Your best bet is to see a healthcare provider before trying any do-it-yourself facial reconstruction techniques. 

Where Does Mewing Come From? 

Technically, mewing isn't a medical term. It was named after the British orthodontist, Dr. John Mew, who popularized the method in the 1970s as part of his alternative orthodontic practice called orthotropics. John Mew's son, Mike Mew, also an orthodontist, continued to promote the technique and is generally credited for mewing's growing popularity over YouTube and TikTok.

Orthotropics uses facial and oral posture exercises and some appliances to change the jawline and face shape. Initially, orthotropics was intended for children to help influence jaw development and straighten teeth for a more aesthetic look. However, the London School of Facial Orthortopics, an organization founded and supported by John Mew, now also promotes the practice for adults.

The Mews claim that human jaws are getting smaller because of environmental and lifestyle factors — like eating soft food and mouth breathing — not the traditionally accepted genetic connection. They theorize smaller jaws can make teeth crowd and change the facial shape. As a solution, mewing is supposed to help make the jaw larger and stronger, realign teeth, and create a more squared jawline.

How to Mew

So how do you actually mew? The basics of mewing, according to the London School of Facial Orthotropics, involves keeping your mouth closed with:

  • The tongue touching the roof of the mouth
  • The lips pressed together
  • The top and bottom teeth touching or nearly touching

You'll basically have to train yourself to naturally return to this position, which can take time and practice (the London School of Facial Orthotropics claims their treatments can take 14 months to 2 years). The gist of the mewing ideology is that continuously returning to this posture can help straighten teeth and improve facial structure.

Does Mewing Work? 

No credible research proves mewing can permanently alter your jaw structure. There's also no evidence mewing can treat health issues like sinusitis, breathing problems, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), or sleep apnea. Most of the claims come straight from John and Mike Mew or the Mews-backed London School of Facial Orthotropics. Promising before and after mewing pictures posted online are also unreliable since photo angling and lighting can be deceiving. At most, you may get a temporary contoured look if you try mewing during a photo session. 

However, the Mews may have been on to something when it comes to how teeth and tongue position affects jaw development. In line with John Mew's theory, research supports that human jaws are getting smaller. In addition, oral posture, or how you position your teeth and tongue, has been shown to affect jaw development in children. A small study of 50 children even found those who breathed through their mouth had minor changes to their facial features.

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) also agrees that tongue alignment can change your facial structure. How you naturally rest your tongue can also clue in orthodontists on potential mouth issues, such as tongue thrusting that pushes teeth forward and causes bite, speech, or swallowing problems.

Potential Risks

While it's unlikely mewing will successfully change your jawline or teeth, trying to alter your jaw structure without healthcare provider guidance can be risky. The AAO warns mewing shouldn't be used to try to change your teeth or jaw line. Instead, see a healthcare provider if you're concerned about jaw structure issues. They can properly evaluate the complexities of your facial structure and determine a treatment plan. 

Facial restructuring is quite complex and involves altering the jaw, facial bones, and soft tissue. So altering your jawline without expert guidance could cause lasting damage to these intertwined parts. However, since there's not enough evidence to prove mewing works, it's unlikely the practice will cause any unwanted side effects.

Alternatives to Mewing

If your jaw shape, pain, or dental woes stem from a misaligned jaw (aka malocclusion), you'll likely need to see an orthodontist. Depending on the cause of a misaligned jaw, treatments may include:

  • Surgery: Corrective jaw surgery to help realign the upper and lower jaws. 
  • Tooth repair: Reshaping or capping irregular teeth that cause overcrowding.
  • Braces: Metal bands attached to bonds on the teeth to help adjust tooth alignment.
  • Tooth removal: Removing teeth that cause overcrowding.

If you want to change your facial composition or jawline for aesthetic reasons, cosmetic surgery and treatments are other potential options. However, these cosmetic procedures can be very pricey and come with their own set of risks. Some methods that can alter your jawline include: 

  • Facial contouring: Facial sculpting surgery that changes your chin, cheeks, and jawline's shape by removing fat or adding implants. 
  • Dermal fillers (jawline contour treatment): Gel injected into the skin around the jaw to sharpen or adjust the symmetry of the jawline. 
  • Radiofrequency (RF) therapy: Energy waves are shot deep into your skin and create heat, which can stimulate collagen production or reduce fat to contour the facial skin. 

Mewing Controversy

The orthodontics community is very critical of mewing. The General Dental Council stripped John Mew of his dental license for his unconventional practices and criticism of traditional orthodontics. In addition, the British Orthodontic Society expelled Mike Mew, and the General Dental Council held a misconduct hearing regarding some of his treatments.

However, mewing's most significant source of controversy is its tie to the incel (aka involuntary celibate) internet movement. The incel community is a group of cisgender men known to blame their lack of sexual activity on women and society. In 2014, a Mike Mew YouTube video on mewing was posted on an incel message board. From there, incel movement supporters and YouTube channels made the practice go viral, pushing the method to improve their looks and sexual encounters.

Mike and John Mew aren't directly a part of the incel community, and the intention of mewing has been skewed by the viral mewing videos on the internet. Wellness gurus, beauty bloggers, and incels often tout the technique as an aesthetic treatment for adults, even though the Mews created the treatment for young children. However, the Mews have slightly changed their approach with their followers and now treat adult patients.

A Quick Review  

Mewing is a DIY facial reconstructing technique that involves keeping your tongue pressed to the roof of your mouth to help change the shape of your jawline. Despite the internet hype, there needs to be more evidence to prove mewing works. The practice is also heavily scrutinized and controversial for going against orthodontic standards and its tie to the incel movement.

However, some of the basic ideas connected to mewing are backed by research. Studies show how kids position their tongues and teeth can affect jaw development. How you rest your tongue can also be a good indicator of potential facial structure and mouth issues. 

If you try mewing, it's unlikely you'll have lasting results. But, if you have concerns about your jaw area, it's best to chat with your healthcare provider. 

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