What Is Mewing?

Mewing is a type of tongue posture that some say can shape the face

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Mewing is the placement of the tongue on the roof of the mouth, which proponents say can reshape the face and help correct orthodontic, breathing, and facial structural issues. It was developed by an orthodontist named John Mew in the 1970s.

Although the technique has received a lot of attention on social media, there’s little indication that can actually change your look or impact your health. Here’s what you should know about mewing.

Man has orthodontic appointment to address jaw and teeth issues
 GoodLifeStudios / E+ / Getty Images

What Is Mewing?

Mewing is the practice of resting your mouth in a certain position. Many people rest with their tongue at the bottom of their mouths and their mouths slightly open. However, proponents of mewing say that adjusting the position of your tongue can help correct a myriad of issues ranging from crooked teeth to sleep apnea.

Rather than resting their tongues on the bottom of their mouths, people who practice mewing rest their tongues on the roof of their mouths. Their lips are together, and their teeth are either touching or close together. 

People who practicing mewing refer to this as proper tongue posture. And just as regular posture is essential for health, they say that tongue posture has important health ramifications as well. Over time, people who practice mewing train their bodies to naturally return to this position.

Origins of Mewing

Mewing originated with a father-son pair of orthodontists in the United Kingdom. The idea of mewing originated with Dr. John Mew, an orthodontist in England who is now in his 90s. Mew started treating patients in the 1970s using mewing and palate expanders, rather than more traditional orthodontic techniques like braces.

Although most orthodontists focus on straightening teeth, Mew was more focused on appearance. He aimed to help patients create a strong jawline.

Mew’s son later became an orthodontist as well. Mike Mew is well-known for having continued his father’s teachings about tongue posture and facial construction. He’s a practicing orthodontist in London.

The Mews are both associated with the London School of Facial Orthotropics, which John Mew founded. Although they were both licensed dentists and orthodontists, John Mew was recently stripped of his license, in part because of the controversy surrounding mewing. The British Orthodontic Society also expelled Mike Mew.

Theory of How Mewing Works

According to the Mews, people today have smaller jaws than our ancestors. They believe that environmental and lifestyle factors—like allergies that lead to mouth breathing and ready access to food that’s soft and easy to chew—have contributed to jaws becoming smaller.

A smaller jaw leaves teeth crowded, and thus crooked. It also contributes to a less aesthetically pleasing face, the Mews say. The Mews argue that practicing good tongue posture can fix this, resulting in jaws that are larger, stronger, and more squared. They also argue that mewing can fight sleep apnea and encourage a healthier respiratory system.

Is There Any Truth to Mewing?

Despite the popularity of searches for mewing on social media, there’s little objective evidence that mewing will change your face. There has been no credible, peer-reviewed study about the effects of mewing.

John Mew has said that his own children are evidence. His daughter, fed with soft foods until she was 4 years old and not taught mewing, had crooked teeth and an “ugly” facial alignment; Mike Mew, on the other hand, was taught mewing and to eat rough foods, and has a square, muscular jaw.

However, there is some truth to the issues that the Mews say that they can help solve. Research shows that human jaws are in fact getting smaller. This has been linked with health issues including crooked teeth (malocclusion), mouth breathing, and sleep apnea.

Researchers have indeed linked “oral posture”—the position of the teeth and tongue—to jaw development. The solutions that researchers propose are not unlike those that the Mews advocate for.

Researchers say that eating tougher foods—particularly in childhood—can help develop the jaw, as can chewing gum. They also advise breathing and swallowing exercises that can help encourage jaw development in children.

Mewing and the Incel Movement

Besides the rejection of more traditional orthodontic practices, like braces, mewing has another controversial element—its association with the incel (or involuntary celibate) movement. The movement is an internet phenomenon of men who blame women and society for the fact that they are not sexually active.

The incel movement became fascinated with mewing when a video of Mike Mew speaking was posted on an incel message board in 2014. Mew began engaging with people on the message board, with many of the individuals hoping to overcome their celibate status by improving their face.

Since then, the concept of mewing has been loosely associated with the incel movement. However the practice has gained attention in more mainstream areas of the internet, and searches for mewing increased in 2019.

A Word From Verywell

Mewing has caught the public’s attention, particularly among people who want to improve their respiratory and orthodontic health or have a more prominent jaw. The practices touches on areas that mainstream science is beginning to recognize—including the idea that human jaws are getting smaller and that this affects tooth positioning and breathing.

Some of the ideas exposed by the Mews—like the importance of chewing during childhood—have been supported by objective, peer-reviewed scientific study. However, the practice of mewing itself has not been independently evaluated by researchers or scientists. Much of the support for the practice comes from John and Mike Mew and their followers.

If you want to try mewing, it’s unlikely to cause harm. However, if you are struggling with any medical conditions including sleep apnea, it’s best to talk to a qualified doctor or orthodontist, rather than attempting to solve the issue yourself. A trained physician or orthodontist can address both structural and cosmetic concerns that you might have about your jaw. 

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