Mewing: What Is It and Does It Work?
No, we’re not talking about the sounds kittens make. Mewing refers to a simple facial exercise that proponents say helps you look more attractive, plus can relieve sleep apnea, sinusitis and other problems.
Mewing, also known as orthotropics, is named after the British dentist who invented it, John Mew, about 50 years ago. The practice has become popular recently due to fans spreading its supposed benefits on YouTube and other social media channels. Some posts feature before-and-after images showing stunning transformations: weak chins replaced by square jawlines, chiseled cheekbones emerging from previously moon-round faces. But pictures can be doctored and claims can be overblown, leading to the question: Does mewing really work?
John Mew created orthotropics to help children fix misaligned teeth or poor facial structures without braces or dental surgery. He believed these problems could be overcome instead by improving your facial posture, primarily by pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth, while keeping lips closed and teeth aligned. Mew also recommended eating more hard foods and fewer soft, processed ones, with the idea that chewing tougher foods will exercise facial muscles.
While Mew’s techniques were aimed at children, fans promoted them for adults, and called them mewing—a name that has stuck.
Mewing steps are simple:
- Rest your mouth normally.
- Move your tongue to the roof of your mouth and lightly press and flatten it.
- Make sure your tongue is not pressed against your front upper teeth, but resting just behind them.
- Try to use the back third of your tongue to press against the back of the roof of your mouth. An exercise to help your tongue get in this position is to make the “ng” sound (or say a word that ends in those letters, such as “sing”).
- Keep your mouth closed, with your teeth gently resting together. (Don’t over-clench, which could cause jaw pain.)
Mewing proponents say that mewing exercises, when done properly and consistently, can provide a variety of benefits, including:
- Improved facial appearance (such as stronger jawlines and cheekbones)
- Correction of speech impediments
- Reduction in temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ)
- Alleviation of sleep apnea and snoring
- Fewer sinus infections and sinusitis
- Less nasal congestion
- Improved breathing and swallowing
However, results—particularly facial appearance—may not be visible for quite some time, online mewing sites warn. Mewingpedia, for example, says most people will see results in 3 to 6 months, but others may need to wait 1 to 2 years.
To date, no reliable research exists to prove that mewing is effective. While you may find people giving their personal testimonials online, there have not been any randomized clinical trials or other authoritative studies to back up claims of mewing’s success.
In a 2019 paper in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, three dentists call mewing “a new social media craze,” and warn that “the public needs to be made aware that it is not based on sound scientific evidence.”
Mewing also could hurt you, warns Georgia cosmetic dentist Rod Strickland on his practice’s website. Strickland cautions that mewing “has the potential to cause as many problems as it solves,” including crooked teeth and bite problems like TMJ. “We recommend against trying it.”
Other dentists are more open to mewing, saying it isn’t likely to be harmful, though agreeing it is unproven.
Mewing shares some similarities with a recognized type of oral physical therapy, called orofacial myofunctional therapy, which is performed by dentists, dental hygienists, and speech pathologists. This therapy helps people who have abnormal tongue positioning to adopt correct tongue posture—which, like mewing, involves resting your tongue on the roof of your mouth, with your lips closed.
However, with orofacial myofunctional therapy, you have a trained professional to help determine what is needed and to help you do it properly. You are not trying a do-it-yourself approach picked up from unverified YouTube posts.
If you have questions about whether you should consider mewing, it’s best to discuss these with your dentist or doctor.