What is mewing - and can the technique change your face?

Niche orthodontic practice has become a YouTube craze

lips, mouth
(Image credit: Christine Roth )

YouTube has gained notoriety as a breeding ground for dangerous crazes such as the so-called Bird Box and Laundry Pod challenges but the latest viral trend may leave participants with more to smile about.

Social media is awash with tips and videos about “Mewing”, a technique that advocates claim can cure overbites and firm up the jawline to boot. So what does it involve - and does it actually work?

What is mewing?

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Mewing is named after father-and-son British orthodontists John and Mike Mew, both advocates of a controversial method for correcting malocclusion, the technical term for the misalignment that causes overbites or underbites.

The key part of the technique - which the Mews dubbed “orthotropics” - is to change the position of the tongue when at rest, pressing it to the roof of the mouth, part of the upper jaw bone, or maxilla.

According to the dentist duo, “consistent tongue placement on the maxilla apparently renders it malleable, thus changing face shape”, The Guardian reports. This allegedly does away with the need for braces or surgery to correct malocclusion.

Practitioners of mewing are also encouraged to breath through the nose and chew thoroughly to strengthen the face muscles.

Dr Mike Mew, who took over his father’s London clinic in 2014, has posted hundreds of videos to YouTube explaining the practice. He told Vice that simple postural adjustments could drastically change bone structure without any medical intervention.

“Few people in the modern world have gained the full genetic potential in their facial development,” he said.

As well as correcting overbites or underbites, the theory holds that “having the correct tongue, jaw and neck posture can help improve jaw problems, mouth muscle pains, and sleep apnea”, the Daily Mail reports.

However, the recent mewing craze appears to be driven principally by its potential aesthetic benefits.

On a Reddit forum dedicated to orthotropics, users “earnestly seek advice on how to gain their desired facial features, which includes (but is not limited to) ‘hunter eyes’ or deep-set almond eyes, more pronounced cheekbones and defined jawlines”, says The Guardian.

Does it work?

Mewing has “been popular for quite some time, on incel forums and hyper-masculine fringes of the internet”, says Vice, but in recent months Instagram, YouTube and Reddit have been flooded with before and after photos demonstrating the supposed effects of mewing.

Yet the success of mewing is purely anecdontal, as “the alleged benefits of the technique have yet to be substantiated by science,” The Guardian reports.

In December, Mew uploaded a video to YouTube claiming he had been expelled from the British Orthodontic Society for his advocacy of mewing, which is not accepted by mainstream orthodontics.

The society would not confirm or deny the reports, saying they were unable to discuss the status of individual members.

Orthodontist Dr Uchenna Okoye of the London Smiling clinic told Vice that there was “some truth” to the idea that mewing could alleviate sleep apnea, but said the more exaggerated claims needed to be taken with a “pinch of salt”.

However, she added that while the supposed benefits of mewing are not scientifically proven, the practice does not pose any risk to its adherents.

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