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As digital trends rapidly shape our perceptions of beauty and wellness, platforms are at the forefront, sparking the rise of various aesthetic practices. These trends often emerge without much proof of their effectiveness, quickly capturing the interest of millions looking for easy beauty hacks. New buzzwords and methods regularly attract those eager for non-invasive cosmetic improvements.

Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes on apps like TikTok has probably heard a barrage of new terms over the last several years. With concerns over aesthetics and visual appeal being a common topic, users have been flocking to trends like “looksmaxxing” and—most notably—“mewing.” For those unfamiliar with the practice of mewing, it describes a technique that supposedly refines the jawline, giving the user a chiseled, more appealing appearance. However, is this a practical technique or another social media myth? Answering this requires a dive into the practice of mewing, its origins, and its links—if any—to scientific evidence.

The origins of mewing

As odd as it may seem, mewing didn't just appear out of thin air; it's not a term that originated on TikTok or YouTube. In reality, the term originates from Dr. John Mew, a British orthodontist. Mew is the founder of the practice of orthotropics, a form of oral posture training that he claims can guide facial growth and lead to a more attractive jawline.

Mewing is just one of many practices he recommends through orthotropics. Others include using palatal expanders and diet changes.

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Scientific underpinnings and claims

According to Mew, mewing works by placing the tongue in a position that allows the tongue to exert outward force on the jaw. In a growing child, he claims that this position can prevent downward or backward growth of the maxilla, eventually resulting in a natural cure for conditions like malocclusion—a condition where the upper and lower teeth are misaligned.

This idea hinges on the concept that tooth and jaw growth is not genetic but instead due to the movement of those areas of the body over a child’s developmental period.

Jawbones with maxillary and mandibular dentition and lower jaw set further back than upper jaw on blue background

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Popular claims vs. medical evidence

As is often the case with medical information, Dr. Mew’s claims have steadily become twisted and warped through the lens of social media. Online supporters of mewing claim that simply pressing the tongue to the top of the mouth will steadily improve one’s jawline, even if they're no longer a developing child.

Some even go so far as to say that mewing can cure conditions ranging from speech pathology to sleep apnea and even sinusitis. Scientifically, the vast majority of experts consider this information to be patently false with no logical backing.

Mewing: Modern Myth or Miracle Method? gorodenkoff / Getty Images

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Potential benefits of proper tongue posture

The concept of tongue position affecting dental health and jaw development is not new. However, the reasoning is not the same as Dr. Mew’s conclusions. The proper position of the tongue is for the tip of the tongue to touch the roof of the mouth, just behind the front teeth.

The tongue should not sit on the floor of the mouth. Adopting improper tongue position often leads to speech dysfunctions, while using the proper position avoids these issues and allows for clearer speech.

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Risks and misconceptions

It is worth noting that Dr. Mew’s suggestions that tongue position has links to malocclusion are somewhat valid. However, the mewing tongue position varies significantly from the clinically-accepted proper tongue position. As with any form of poor tongue position, mewing for significant periods could actually lead to the very problem Mew claims it treats—malocclusion—and problems like speech dysfunction.

Additionally, there's no evidence that tongue position affects the jawline of a grown adult.

Mewing: Modern Myth or Miracle Method?

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Expert opinions on facial growth manipulation

The general expert consensus is that Dr. Mew’s thoughts on tongue position potentially affecting facial growth in children have merit. However, his poor quality studies, general lack of evidence, and his behavior surrounding the popularity of Mewing have led to many vocally disagreeing with Mew.

None of Mews’ theories have undergone the same rigorous examination that standard orthodontic practices have. Experts are open to non-surgical means of facial growth management, but only if they're backed up by thorough and well-recorded research.

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Alternative therapies and treatments

Rather than mewing, experts are using, suggesting, or actively testing a range of non-surgical facial growth management techniques. Some of the most common treatments experts use in both children and adults include braces or similar appliances. In some instances, professionals may reshape teeth or repair rough ones, allowing the jaw to develop in a healthier manner. Historically, orthodontists have used various forms of headgear to manipulate the muscles and bones to develop in a particular manner.

In a way, braces and headgear are similar to mewing in that they exert force on developing areas. The difference lies in the amount and consistency of that force.

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The role of lifestyle and environmental factors

Orthodontists recognize a long list of factors that can influence facial development. Some of the most prominent occur in early infancy because of the importance of development in this stage. Childhood habits like thumb sucking, overuse of bottles, and pacifier use beyond age three all lead to less ideal facial development.

Studies also indicate that mouth breathing in children may lead to malocclusion and other problems. Some researchers have even suggested that avoiding tough foods and eating soft foods too often during childhood could have similar effects.

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Mewing and social media influence

There's little doubt that social media amplified the mewing trend to unbelievable heights. It made complex problems like poor facial development and malocclusion simple and digestible. It provided an answer for those less confident with their appearances. Ultimately, the success of mewing comes down to three factors.

  1. Social media places a magnifying glass on people’s lives and appearances.
  2. Changing the position of the tongue does slightly change the face. This change is not permanent in adults, but the visual difference was enough to drive the popularity of the trend.
  3. People desire control over their health—an area that is normally extremely inaccessible for many individuals.

These factors led to a massive boom in interest in orthodontics, which left many experts wondering if they could use social media more effectively.

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Legal and ethical considerations

When it comes to scientific reputation, Dr. Mew and his son—also an orthodontist—are essentially outsiders. The Mews have enraged the greater orthodontic community by making absurd, unproven claims and attacking other professionals who question them. Mew even attempted to suggest that the General Dental Council supported his claims, which caused them to punish him for misconduct.

This then led to Mew claiming they were attempting to silence him, which ultimately resulted in him being expelled from the British Orthodontic Society. Experts feel that Mew’s usage of unproven techniques on children and his continued vocal defense of the techniques were not only dangerous but morally objectionable.

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Future of facial orthotropics

In terms of the future of orthotropics, most professionals agree that Mew’s theories were misguided at best and dangerous at worst. There's little chance of the field recovering and regaining credibility in the coming years. However, there is still a significant amount of potential for recognizing different tongue positions and similar techniques when it comes to facial growth manipulation. Given the controversial nature of mewing, it is likely that any such practice will be met with far more rigorous testing. Should any promising technique emerge, it will have a spotlight with plenty of scientific evidence to support or combat it.

Ultimately, mewing is little more than a social media trend with no scientific backing. Some experts even believe it could be harmful if performed in excess. While it may be an unappealing answer for some, the best choice a person can make for their health is following the clinically proven, peer-reviewed standards set forth by credible medical professionals.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.