Mewing is a controversial practice. While Dr. Mike Mew and thousands of followers around the world swear by it, mewing has been criticized by many traditional orthodontic professionals. Opinions aside, does mewing actually work?
Dozens of before and after pictures suggest that mewing really works. Unfortunately, there are few clinical studies which directly support the practice. I did find one study which suggests that mewing can improve facial appearance, swallowing, and overbite.
Clinical Evidence for Mewing
In the scientific community, clinical evidence is the golden standard for deciding whether or not something like mewing works.
Unfortunately, clinical evidence is hard to come by when it comes to mewing, because it’s been so poorly studied. Although there have been some discussions on tongue posture and how it relates to the development of the face, these have been limited in scope.
To make matters more complicated, traditional orthodontists have been mostly silent on the matter, perhaps due to their reliance on dental devices over oral therapy methods. There is, however, one particularly relevant study, which originates from South Korea.
10-Year Korean Mewing Study
A 10-year study published in the Korean Journal of Orthodontics is one of the most direct confirmations that mewing does, in fact, work.
The study focused on a single patient who had an anterior open bite — where the back teeth touch but the front don’t — low tongue posture, and tongue-tie. The patient, 19 years old, had previously attempted using retainers prescribed by his orthodontist for two years, but to no avail.
For the purposes of the study, the patient was given a tongue elevator: a painless device which would train his mind to keep his tongue at the roof of his mouth. The tongue elevator was minimally invasive and caused no discomfort, was relatively cheap, and easy to apply.
The results were quite extraordinary. Not only did the patient soon correct his overbite and swallowing, but his appearance also improved. Best of all, the results showed “long-term stability and were maintained for six years through continual use of the tongue elevator.”
Although the study used a tongue elevator, it still confirmed the relationship between tongue posture and facial appearance. By lifting the tongue towards the roof of the mouth, one can bring forward their facial profile.
Studies on the Effects of Proper Tongue Posture
Because so few studies directly mention the effects of mewing, we decided it would be best to instead explore the relationship between tongue posture and the palate and/or jaw.
One such study published at Aga Khan University Hospital found that tongue-to-palate distances were significantly affected by tongue positioning. The study concluded “tongue posture has a significant effect on sagittal jaw relationship and dental arch widths.”
Many other studies have confirmed that tongue posture has a direct relationship with the morphology of the jaw and lower face. For example, in a study published in the European Journal of Orthodontics, the same conclusion was reached: those with smaller palates also had a lower tongue posture. The results were statistically found to be significant.
However, the direct links between tongue posture and proper health are still poorly understood. In a literature review on the topic conducted in 2016 published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Research, the findings were inconclusive. The recommendation was to conduct more imaging over a period of time to draw a more direct relationship.
Studies of Tongue Posture in Children
Dr. Mike Mew always mentions how the earlier you develop proper tongue posture, the better. This is because the younger you are, the easier it is to change and contour your face shape. As a result, the effects of mewing are most noticeable in children.
And there’s been studies to back this up. For example, one 2018 study published in Radiology and Oncology found that tongue positioning in preschool children was closely related to anterior open bite and articulation disorders. By correcting the tongue posture to naturally lie on the roof of the mouth, the mouth is best positioned for articulation development.
Other Sources for Mewing Evidence
If you’re willing to look beyond third-party, clinical studies, one of the best sources of information for mewing and correct tongue posture techniques is the official website for the International Association of Facial Growth Guidance (i.e. Orthotropics). There you can find a treasure trove of studies and tutorials on the method.
You might also like to watch Dr. Mike Mew’s Harvard talk at the Ancestral Health Symposium, where he makes the case for mewing and proper tongue posture. His talk outlines his own thought process on how he arrived at various crucial conclusions. It’s a fascinating watch if you’re interested in how mewing even got started and what spurred its questions.
In all, there is some information already out there. And as mewing reaches more and more people, we can expect further clinical studies on proper tongue posture to follow.