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Mewing: Does it work?

Is mewing your ticket to a naturally snatched jawline? Read on to find out!

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, chances are good you’ve noticed that sharp jawlines are a thing right now. 

All over social media, people are showing off – and coveting – chiselled jawlines.

Defined jawlines certainly make for a great photo, but is there really a non-invasive way to get one? Read on to find out. (Designed by Freepik)

There’s a reason for that – a strong, well-defined jawline is considered by many to be a key masculine beauty feature. Evolutionarily speaking, a strong jaw can reflect high levels of testosterone, much like full lips are thought to signify higher levels of estrogen in women. And – though the desired angles for a feminine jaw are softer and veer more V-shaped – a well-proportioned, strong lower third of the face is just as important a signifier of feminine beauty as it is for men. A strong jawline can also give the illusion of a slimmer, fitter physique, and subconsciously telegraph authority and confidence when making first impressions. 

Our species likes a good jaw. 

And between fillers, botulinum injections, implants, and even orthodontics, it often feels like there’s not much we won’t do to improve what nature gave us. 

But what about exercise?  

Can you exercise your way to a better jawline? Proponents of mewing and ‘chewing’ masseter workouts say it’s so but be aware of the nuances. (Designed by Freepik.com)

Orthotics, Mewing, and TikTok 

Perhaps you’ve come across ‘mewing’ or similar ‘jaw workouts’ now popularized on TikTok. Fans claim that you can ‘train’ your way to a snatched jawline and better oral posture. All it takes? Effort and the willpower to keep up with it. The best part? It’s free!

But is it a miracle shortcut to reshaping your jawline and improving everything from breathing to crooked teeth (as fans often claim) – or another fad that’s too good to be true?

 

The Mews

Heard about mewing? No, it’s not named for the sound a cat makes, but for the father and son orthodontist family who pioneered the Orthotropic ‘mewing’ technique. (Designed by Freepic.diller for Freepik.com)

The Mews are a father and son orthodontist family from the UK who pioneered mewing based on their Orthotropics movement. The general gist? That one’s facial appearance is not fixed and can be changed over the course of your life. 

A hallmark of their theory is that our species’ recent lifestyle changes have drastically affected jaw development and catalysed an increased occurrence of malocclusion (crooked teeth) and bite issues. They believe our shift from hunter gatherer diets of tougher foods that require a lot of chewing in favor of a softer, processed diet has led to a downswing and narrowing of facial form, leaving less room for our tongue, teeth, and airway to coexist. The result? Restricted airways, reduced nasal breathing, crowded teeth, and an overall less appealing aesthetic.

They even have a name for these less appealing cranial changes: craniofacial dystrophy

Their theory has some legs. Over the past few thousand years, our diet has shifted drastically, and those behavioural changes do coincide with smaller jaws and less room for teeth like the wisdom teeth, which are often removed. Softer processed foods do require less mastication (chewing) which in turn could lead to us developing weaker muscles and may have resulted in us developing a less square jaw overall. 

We also know that muscle can have a profound effect on bone growth and density. When someone suffers a stroke, the muscles weaken as does the underlying bone. Similarly, when we inject botulinum toxin into the masseter muscle, we sometimes see the mandibular bone weaken. Building muscle in the gym can also do wonders to improve bone density. So the idea of muscle influencing bone growth isn’t without merit.  

But the orthotropics movement is also controversial, and for some good reasons. The theory that a shift of hunter gatherers to agriculture has led to our modern dentition woes is a great story and has some good evidence behind it, summed up well by the Smithsonian here. But that environment/behavior link is not as clear of a slam dunk as superfans of the movement would have you believe. There are highly complicated genetics at play in tooth/bone development. Some modern changes we see may be genetic coincidence, a natural selection on populations who no longer needed the genes for heavier mastication. And while there are examples of ethnic groups who have experienced a higher rate of crooked teeth since exposure to a modern diet, there are also plenty of examples of ethnic populations (some recently employing a hunter gatherer diet) who lost their third molars due to hereditary mutations, not behavior.

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In a word, it’s complicated. There’s never been a head-to-head study comparing orthotropics to orthodontics (the current standard of care that favors movement of teeth and repositioning the jaw to address bite problems), so we don’t really know how well orthotropic methods work compared to the care standard. The establishment’s stance is that you can’t impactfully change the overall genetic structure of your face through muscle movements and posture alone, and that treating the jaw and physically addressing the teeth is the way to best treat malocclusion (crooked teeth) and bite issues.

So how do you mew? 

The Goal: By chewing more and elevating your palate through better oral posture, you support your lower face and build up the masseter muscles, preventing malocclusion and an underdeveloped jaw.  

Mewing Technique: Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, maintain pressure with the mouth closed, careful not to press your tongue against the back of your teeth (teeth float and pressure can push them out of alignment). Try to maintain this posture and pressure while swallowing and at rest. 

 

Does it work? 

Early growth of the jaw and teeth has a tight developmental window. Directing growth is likely only possible before the age of 16. After age 25? Those bones are set. For the majority of people, mewing is just not a viable alternative to braces. Designed by pvproductions on Freepik

Whether mewing can reshape the jaw really comes down to timing. It was designed as a preventative measure for malocclusion (ie: an alternative to braces) to be used while the facial bones are still growing. In theory, this could be effective in the early teen years while bones are still growing, but only up to the age of 16 or so. After that, you might see mild improvements, but only until the age of 25. Past the age of 25, those bones are set and won’t be changing in any meaningful way. 

But I understand and appreciate the appeal of orthotropics. We all like the idea of improving ourselves and our body through hard work and dedication – which orthotropics (and mewing) promises to do. The concept of using muscle strengthening exercises, posture improvement, and non-intrusive orthotropic appliances to obtain more permanent results is very appealing (retainers often need to be worn for life after braces). Unfortunately, without the head-to-head studies we mentioned before, we have no idea how orthotropics compares and holds up to standard treatment methods. 

Should you be trying mewing? As far as DIY TikTok trends go, this one is pretty harmless (though using a dog chew accessory could lead to TMJ irritation and eventual arthritis). Mewing is free and provided you’re mindful of the front teeth, it shouldn’t cause any permanent damage. And who knows? Much like yoga practitioners find, maybe mewing will net you some positive breathing benefits. 

Where I worry is a little more nuanced. Using mewing to see if it improves oral posture and daily breathing is one thing but using it to try and address current medical issues is entirely different. Sleep apnea, for example, is a complicated and multifaceted problem without an easy, one stop fix. Serious nasal obstructions, (a deviated septum, enlarged turbinates, and other masses) or issues with the pharynx can require medical intervention and sometimes surgery. These kinds of conditions can’t be fixed by a favorable tongue position and a concern I have is that people delay proper treatments while they try something like this out. 

On the aesthetics side, a weaker, sloped chin (an obtuse cervicomental angle) can be caused by a hyoid bone having a more forwards and lower position (anterior and inferior). That can’t be fixed by exercise. Deposits of subplatysmal fat can also contribute to making a jaw and neck appear heavy and obtuse, and in those instances, deep neck surgery – removing the fat and re-sculpting the muscles – can achieve better definition much more efficiently than exercises. 

Final Note

If you want to give mewing a go (or are already a fan) there’s no harm. If you like the result and think it’s benefiting you? Fantastic! But, if you’re after a significant change (health wise or aesthetic), you won’t see it with mewing. Furthermore, you run the risk of being disappointed, or worse, delaying appropriate cosmetic or medical intervention. 

As to those viral videos showing instant results? You can feel confident that they’re faked. 

Still have questions about jawlines? Tune in next week where I talk about what exactly makes a great jawline and the ways you can really get one. 

If you’re considering a plastic surgery journey and want to explore your options, visit our Beauty Experts page at Feel Confident. Only providers who meet our highest standards appear on this list. You can feel confident choosing a Star of Confidence provider for your aesthetics journey. 

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Written by
Kristi Charish
Edited by
Dr. Gary Linkov
The content of this newsletter is for entertainment and educational purposes only. This content is not meant to provide any medical advice or treat any medical conditions. Patients must be evaluated by an appropriate healthcare provider on an individual basis and treatment must be tailored to meet that patient’s needs. Results and particular outcomes are not guaranteed.
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