Updated: Feb 1
Despite having been developed in 1966, mewing has finally achieved virality after nearly half a century due to popularization via social media. Allegedly, mewing can improve facial structure and render traditional orthodontics obsolete simply by practicing tongue posturing exercises throughout the day.
It literally costs you next to nothing because all you need is control of your tongue. With nothing but your tongue, you can improve your facial appearance and correct your malocclusion. Does it sound too good to be true?
This article will do a deep dive into mewing and then we'll give you our verdict about whether or not it actually works. That way you can make an informed decision on whether to mew or not to mew. Is it worth it and are there potential side effects?
Table of Contents:
What is mewing?
The original concept for mewing was developed by Dr John Mew, a British orthodontist in 1966 but he named it Orthotropics. The term "mewing" was actually coined fairly recently by the public community in honor of him. Therefore, orthotropics have been around for decades while mewing has only emerged in the last couple of years.
The entire premise behind orthotropics is that Dr Mew hypothesized that malocclusion or a bad bite was the result of a postural deformity. Consequently, if you can fix the bad posture you will be able to correct the malocclusion.
Here are the three proposed causes for your bad bite and poor facial shape according to orthotropic theories:
Weak jaw muscles
Lowered tongue position
Mewing is a series of exercises that were developed by John Mew in order to address those three deficiencies by correcting them. It was created as an alternative to traditional orthodontic treatment by fixing malocclusion via guiding facial growth with mewing exercises.
The exercises all revolve around having the tongue positioned at the roof of the mouth instead of being on the floor of the mouth. You can practice this while at rest and also during meal times. Basically you're supposed to retrain your tongue to be in the correct posture which is to have it on the palate for all of these activities.
Tongue position at rest
Here is a video of the man himself describing orthotropic treatment:
However, you should be aware that due to John Mew's age, he has mostly passed on his teachings to his son, Dr Mike Mew who is also an orthodontist. Their orthotropic youtube channel is mostly being run by his son, Mike.
Here is a video of Mike with an overview of mewing:
Alleged benefits of mewing
According to the creator, mewing will slowly change but improve the shape of your face as well as straighten out your crooked teeth. In fact, there are a whole host of benefits to performing this:
Improve face shape
Correct speech disorders
These alleged benefits do not come easily because you're supposed to practice mewing for at least months if not years in order to see some results. You need to try to squeeze in as many sessions throughout the day and also practice it during meal times.
Although the biggest advantage to incorporating these principles is that it is significantly less expensive than orthodontic treatment. It is also less harmful than moving your teeth around in order to fix your bite as per John Mew since this is a completely natural treatment.
Whether these claims are true or not are difficult to ascertain because there are no studies about it. Although he does provide his own clinical cases on the orthotropic website.
How to mew
Mewing is a series of exercises that you perform in order to retrain your tongue to be in the correct posture, which is to have it at the roof of your mouth at all times.
How to mew at rest:
Lips together. Have them touching so that it forms a natural seal in the mouth.
Teeth lightly touching. You shouldn't be clenching down, just have them gently contacting each other.
Tongue to the roof. Push your tongue up against the palate but make sure that the posterior third of it is in contact with the roof.
You can have the entire tongue up on the roof but the most important part is to ensure the posterior third is touching. If just the tip is touching without the posterior third, you're doing it wrong.
This is performed throughout the day such as when you're sitting around, working, or even watching TV. It takes time to retrain the tongue so you should try to do it as often as possible.
How to mew while eating:
According to the younger Mew, not everyone has time to mew throughout the day but the perfect time to do it is during meal times since everyone has to eat.
Feet flat on the floor.
Thighs should be level.
Elbows should be off the table.
Put the food in your mouth.
Chew the food really well like you mean it!
While chewing, make sure the lips are maintaining the seal but not doing any work. Only the tongue should be doing the work.
Once you're ready to swallow you pause and follow these steps.
Tongue to the roof of the mouth.
Do a small chin tuck.
Then without using any of your facial muscles, you swallow the food.
In case that was difficult to understand, here is a video of him explaining how to perform this exercise while you eat at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Well allegedly so, if you practice this technique well it will teach you how to not only chew but also swallow properly. Apparently everyone is doing it incorrectly. Our initial reaction is that this makes for a very complicated meal. Should it be this complex?
How to mew while walking:
In addition to mewing while at rest and also while eating, you can also perform it while you're walking. This exercise is referred to as the "abs walk".
Tuck your chin in as you're walking.
Tongue to the roof of the mouth.
Keep your posture and back as straight as possible.
Tense your back and abs muscles.
We would like to show you a video of this but unfortunately all of them including any evidence of it has been removed from youtube. Apparently the removal was due to allegations from the British Orthodontic Society about Mike Mew admiring aboriginal abs, which was used as the basis for this exercise.
Indeed, we could not find any videos of this despite searching for it. Although some of his other videos did briefly mention this abs walk so we have to say that it was probably true and he did advocate for it.
Mewing results - before and after
All of the before and after mewing results are of users in the reddit community. These photos were from mewing.app which we were surprised to learn of since there is an app for mewing!
Pictures of before and after:
We must objectively point out that the mewing.app website's content is written by a copywriter and then it was medically reviewed by a non-US licensed dentist. Their medical reviewer is a Russian licensed healthcare provider.
Before and after videos and testimonials of mewing:
Here is a video of Astro, who was one of the earliest adopters that helped popularize this:
Does mewing work?
Whether or not mewing works is complicated because the theory behind orthotropics is difficult to prove. To be completely transparent our initial knee-jerk reaction was that mewing sounded absolutely ridiculous.
However, after doing a deep dive into the topic we would have to revise our position. We believe that the concept of orthotropics is not implausible BUT it is seriously impractical.
It is not implausible but it is incredibly difficult to prove
The idea behind mewing is that you can influence the development of your jaw and your teeth by altering the function of your tongue. This is done by retraining the tongue to be in a certain position, changing the way you chew, and changing the way you swallow.
As per the original concepts of orthotropics, for best results the system was created to be used on children below the age of 9. In addition to the mewing, itt was also used in conjunction with the biobloc, which is a palatal expander.
The biobloc is a retainer-like appliance which expands your upper arch sideways by pushing the back teeth outwards. It will also push the front teeth forward. The ultimate result is that the upper jaw will be wider and longer than before you used the appliance.
The video above is of John Mew explaining the use of the biobloc. It is proof that what the treatment which he prescribes his patient is MORE than just mewing exercises because they mew in conjunction with wearing the biobloc appliance.
What makes the concept hard to prove?
It is difficult to prove because all of Mew's successful cases were initially started on children who have yet to go through puberty or are about to. This means that jaw growth would've happened in the middle of treatment and that makes it hard to discern whether or not the results were from orthotropics or purely from pubertal growth.
Nonetheless, the biobloc which is a palatal expander is actually a well known appliance that is used in traditional orthodontics to expand the palate. The reason why it works is because the sutures for the upper jaw are not fused in children so they are highly malleable. That is the reason why the expander works.
The palatal suture does not fuse until children are around 12-13 years of age. This is a well known and proven traditional orthodontic concept which Dr Mew is using.
Is the jaw growth coming from the palatal expansion or is it because of the mewing? Does pushing the tongue to the roof of the mouth continuously throughout the day really change your jaw shape?
Due to the usage of the biobloc and having children under the age of 9 as patients, makes it difficult to prove whether mewing works or not. The jaw expands because the appliance is applying force on it. Mewing attempts to do the same but uses the tongue to apply force on the palate. Since these mewing patients are using the palatal expander as well, the results are difficult to discern because we are not sure which is the one that is producing it.
Aside from that, you may find this interesting but it wasn't until fairly recently that it was social media that picked up on mewing. Youtubers and various other members of the online community took it upon themselves to use mewing as grown adults even though it was originally meant for children.
When John Mew found out about adults using it, he wasn't opposed to it. In fact, he supported it thinking it would be a great experiment. He was also not opposed to expanding into the adult market. Here is an online post referencing this.
The impracticality renders its effectiveness close to negligible
If we ignore the implausibility of mewing and pretend that it does indeed work... another major obstacle is the impracticality of it. Simply putting your tongue to the roof of your mouth for a few minutes a day is not enough to evoke change. You must mew for hours on end in order to apply enough force to the upper jaw to force it to change.
The reason why you must mew for hours is because in order to straighten your teeth to change your facial profile with braces, it must be worn 24/7. In the case for Invisalign, the aligners also need to be worn for at least 20-22 hours per day. As you can see, all methods of moving teeth in order to improve your facial structure requires a LOT of time.
If patients do not wear their Invisalign trays for the stated amount of time, the teeth will not move. For this reason alone, we would have to say that in order for mewing to work, it would most likely require an equal amount of time in order to produce an effect.
Therefore, who on this blue planet is willing to mew for at least 20 hours straight every day for at least a couple of months? That makes it incredibly impractical.
We find it hard to believe that a couple of minutes of mewing per day would be sufficient to straighten your teeth and improve your facial structure. Life is not that easy. Thus, we would have to say that the effects from such short mewing times are probably negligible.
Credibility of John and Mike Mew
The ideas of mewing and othotropics are not well received by the scientific community. The senior Mew tried publishing his paper on it but got rejected 15 times and it took over 23 years before it finally got published.
If that wasn't bad enough, the General Dental Council stripped John Mew of his dental license. His son, Mike Mew was also expelled by the British Orthodontic Society in 2018.
Although according to this source, the General Dental Council did not strip him of his license because he was promoting orthotropics. He was stripped because of his professional misconduct. His research methods did not conform to the standards of clinical research.
Reddit community on mewing
Despite the controversy surrounding mewing and the credibility of the Mew family, the mewing community on reddit is still very much alive to this day. In fact it is very active with over 38k members. Reddit users share their experiences and progress photos on a daily basis.
Although a large part of the mewing movement actually started with the forum looksmax. There were quite a few threads dedicated to it from as far back as 2018.
Risks of mewing
Mewing may seem harmless because you're just shoving your tongue up to the roof of your mouth repeatedly. However there are potential side effects such as TMJ issues and possibly enlarging your tongue. These are the results from repetitively moving your tongue.
The tongue is connected to the lower jaw so when you constantly push it into the roof of your mouth, the lower jaw actually moves up. By putting constant pressure into the palate, what is essentially happening is that you're placing the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) into a state of isometric contraction. That means the joint is in a state of usage.
People with TMJ problems have clicking sounds and/or jaw deviation when they open their mouth. This is usually the result of overuse of the TMJ either from teeth grinding or clenching. Although in this case, it would be a result of mewing exercises.
What this means is that you can potentially develop TMJ problems if you don't have it. However if you already have existing TMJ issues, you should definitely avoid mewing because it will exacerbate it. In fact, Mike Mew says this himself in this video:
According to the man himself, if you have a pre-existing temporomandibular joint disorder that disqualifies you as a candidate for mewing. You need to be really careful trying to do this otherwise. You should definitely get diagnosed by a dentist to see if you have TMJ problems prior to even think of starting this.
We have yet to see ANYONE mention this potential side effect anywhere online but mewing can make your tongue larger. It may have slipped your mind but your tongue is a pretty powerful muscle and that is how it can move around the way that it does.
Let's do a mental exercise and ignore the tongue for a moment. What happens if you CONSTANTLY exercise your biceps or chest muscle? They will get bigger via hypertrophy because the consistent exercise causes the muscle to grow.
Do you see where we are going? What happens when you start exercising your tongue muscle by using it significantly more than to just eat? That's right it can potentially hypertrophy and grow. Therefore, a potential side effect of mewing is tongue enlargement (macroglossia). You can end up with a toad tongue!
There are extreme scenarios where some people have severely large tongues from other medical conditions where the tongue needs to be downsized. That means you can surgically correct large tongues by making it smaller. It definitely doesn't sound like a pleasant procedure.
The verdict on mewing
Overall we would have to say that mewing is NOT worth it because it is impractical and you can develop TMJ problems down the line.
The impracticality of mewing stems from the fact that you need to constantly focus your attention on the exercises for days on end. If you don't do it enough, you won't see any of its alleged benefits.
Remember that for braces you need to have them on 24/7 in order for the teeth to move. For Invisalign you need to wear them all the time except when you're eating. Both of these orthodontic treatments have a device that is exerting force on your teeth and face without you needing to do anything.
Mewing on the other hand does not have such a device acting on your teeth or face. You yourself is responsible for exerting pressure on your skull by constantly pushing your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
That is a lot of work and requires some serious dedication. We are actually quite surprised that people are willing to even undertake this type of treatment because we can barely convince patients in our dental practice to even floss once a day. Yet John Mew has managed to convince people to mew all day long. Quite impressive if we do say.
The risk of developing TMJ issues is huge because if you've ever had to deal with patients who have TMJ pain, it is extremely tough. A lot of the treatment for it is mostly palliative which means there is no cure for it once you develop it.
Your dentist can make you a mouth guard, give you botox injections, or even send you to physical therapy. All of those can temporarily offer you TMJ pain relief but it usually won't fix it completely. The pain will return shortly after usually in a few days or weeks.
Worse case scenario is if you damage the joint enough you may need a surgical procedure to replace the entire joint. It would be similar to how marathon runners get knee replacements. Except in this case you would be replacing your jaw joint.
Alternatively, if you get braces or Invisalign those typically help to alleviate TMJ issues by giving you a more harmonious bite. You could argue that orthotropics will give you a better bite at the end but during the treatment you may have given yourself TMJ problems. Traditional orthodontics don't put that kind of pressure on the TMJ because the forces are mostly limited to the teeth only.
Taking into account everything that we've said above we would have to recommend against mewing. If you want to improve your facial shape and straighten your crooked teeth, you're much better off with traditional orthodontic therapy such as braces or Invisalign.
You could argue that John Mew's theory is interesting and could potentially have some value... The impracticality of it and how difficult it is to prove makes it a questionable endeavor to spend so much of your time on pursuing. There are already proven methods and techniques that can give you the same end results.
Why bother investing so much time into something questionable when you can invest it into something that will give you guaranteed results? Then again, it is your life and your decision.