I had crooked teeth leading into high-school.
According to stats, I was part of the Western majority of needing a fix. I got healthy teeth removed and had braces for a couple of years.
But even after my treatment was finished, my jaw felt smushed back, and my teeth would ache all day.
Sure they were straight, but that was just an aesthetic thing. I had to get healthy teeth removed, my smile was narrow, and now they were causing me pain all day until I got to put my retainer in at night.
Over a year ago, I found a video on “mewing,” a technique invented by John Mew. Now 92 years old, he was a dentist, practicing for 40 years in England.
In 2010, the General Dental Council reprimanded him for two ads he placed talking about how jaw surgery wasn’t necessary, and there were other methods.
His son Michael Mew is continuing on his legacy (especially by spreading the message on Youtube.) And just like his father, he’s running into controversy. According to Wikipedia, he’s since been expelled from the British Orthodontic Society for preaching the same message.
So I found this video a year ago, detailing John Mew’s methods, and it was eye-opening.
It’s a simple premise, but your tongue should be resting on the roof of your mouth with your teeth slightly touching. When you swallow, your tongue should push against the front ridge of your roof—called the maxilla. This pushes the maxilla bone out and widens the palate, making room for your teeth. The whole process makes for an attractive wide, straight smile.
My tongue was just sitting low, loosely, and touching the back of my teeth.
I went and asked my wife, who has a wide smile with straight teeth—no braces—where her tongue was. She said at the top—the roof of her mouth.
“Why, where’s your tongue sit?” she asked.
She looked at me like I was crazy when I told her my tongue rested at the bottom and behind my teeth.
“Oh, that probably explains why you swallow water so loudly.” she said in passing.
I… swallow loudly?
Anyways, since I’ve put some of these practices into my teeth have felt so, so much better.
Not only does the proper tongue posture keep the teeth from collapsing in, but it gives enough room for your bottom jaw to come out. It changes your facial shape and gives you a strong jawline.
I showed the video to a few friends, and it was sort of “Neat. But why are you showing me this?” kind of thing. So I moved onto new topics.
But a few weeks ago I bought a new book called Jaws, and I read it over the Christmas break.
It’s co-written by an orthodontist and Paul R. Ehrlich, a biologist who is a professor at Stanford University. It even has reviews on the cover by Jared Diamond (of the famed Guns, Germs, and Steel) and Robert Sapolsky (a Harvard biologist who wrote Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers and Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst.)
It essentially is a re-cap of all of the work of John Mew, that old maverick, put in a full book form with some more history.
In the book, they showed a skull of a pre-industrial human with a full set of teeth—wisdom teeth included—without any crookedness. That was typical all throughout human history until our more recent times.
They detail a case about how bad tongue posture, at best, causes crooked teeth, and at worse, causes obstructive sleep apnea that leads to all sorts of horrible health outcomes—including death.
And these are all caused by modern inventions and problems. Things like:
- Bottle-feeding babies which change normal tongue posture for babies
- Blending baby food instead of letting them chew and knaw on hard things
- Processed foods that are easy to chew, along with liquid calories, means our jaws and tongue don’t get the workout they need to stay strong.
- The bad, forward head posture from sitting at the desk pulling the bottom jaw back and making a slack/loose jaw
- Living indoors causing allergies, causing us to become mouth breathers, so the mouth can’t be closed with the tongue at the roof of the mouth.
Without the tongue in the right spot, the face slowly collapses in on itself, and the tongue, with no room left to go and poor postural habits, will fall back on the opening of the airways—causing snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a concern, and it’s something we thought about when we included neck training in our men’s True Gains program.
A lot of guys want a thick, strong neck—like Mike Tyson—but we also don’t want to die in the middle of the night. (There are even Reddit threads on the topic: Does having a thicker neck due to bodybuilding increase risk of sleep apnea, similar to being too fat?)
We know that thick necks are a risk factor for sleep apnea—so is it possible that by being strong and having an athletic neck be a risk factor too?
Well, a brand new study from January 10th, 2020, had an overview article titled: Losing tongue fat improves sleep apnea.
From the overview:
“The condition, which is usually marked by loud snoring, can increase your risk for high blood pressure and stroke. While obesity is the primary risk factor for developing sleep apnea, there are other causes, such as having large tonsils or a recessed jaw.”
The recessed jaw is linked to sleep apnea. One part of the problem John Mew was fixing as covered in the Jaws book. More:
“The new study included 67 participants with mild to severe obstructive sleep apnea who were obese—those with a body mass index greater than 30.0. Through diet or weight loss surgery, the patients lost nearly 10 percent of their body weight, on average, over six months. Overall, the participants’ sleep apnea scores improved by 31 percent after the weight loss intervention, as measured by a sleep study.”
So, they put these men and women through an MRI scan, and that’s when they found the tongue had changed.
“The team found that a reduction in tongue fat volume was the primary link between weight loss and sleep apnea improvement.”
And what about the muscle?
“The study also found that weight loss resulted in reduced pterygoid (a jaw muscle that controls chewing) and pharyngeal lateral wall (muscles on the sides of the airway) volumes. Both these changes also improved sleep apnea, but not to the same extent as the reduction in tongue fat.
The authors believe that tongue fat is a potential new therapeutic target for improving sleep apnea.”
So maybe building a bulletproof neck that’s strong isn’t as much of a worry, as staying lean enough to have a proper-sized tongue. (And maybe putting that lean tongue in the right spot, at the roof of our mouth, to create more space in our mouth ought to help too.)
Now when you’re on a diet and trying to lose weight, and you’re frustrated that you’re losing weight but can’t see many changes, you can know that there is fat-loss happening everywhere—including your tongue.
So, what’d you think? Leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you.