Do You Have Good Oral Posture? Here’s Why It Matters

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Seems like a weird question doesn’t it?

Before we begin, let’s define a couple of terms. What is oral posture? When someone mentions the word “posture” they’re usually talking about body posture, as in the position we hold our head, shoulders, and back in. Oral posture on the other hand, refers to the position of the tongue, lips and teeth. Just as there is an ideal body posture, there is an ideal oral posture which we’re going to look into today.

Another word you should know is orthotropics. What is orthotropics? Similar to an orthodontist, who specializes in the treatment of crooked teeth and improper bites, orthotropics practice an alternative way of treating and preventing malocclusion. Instead of focusing solely on the teeth, they view them in relation to the rest of the head and neck as part of a system.

A central principle of orthotropics is that:

Faces that grow well have straight teeth and are healthy, whereas faces that do not, have crooked teeth and a list of other health problems.

Therefore, if we were somehow capable of guiding the growth of the face (which according to orthotropics, we are) we can ensure the proper development and alignment of the teeth. Healthy (and therefore attractive) faces have good teeth because the environment that produces a healthy face also produces healthy teeth. Attaching braces to crooked teeth doesn’t address the underlying problem which caused those crooked teeth in the first place. We’re going to talk about what these underlying problems are further below.

So can something as simple as changing the position of the tongue within the mouth, affect the way you look? According to orthotropics, yes it can. Built upon the research and experience of orthotropics performed on young children by Dr. Mike Mew and his father Dr. John Mew, their work studying how oral posture influences the facial growth of children can provide insight into changing the faces of adults.

Changing the face after puberty? Yes its hard to believe and while we’re not claiming orthotropics does provide tangible improvements to the face of adults, since we’re all about helping you become better looking, we’re presenting the evidence so maybe you could at least positively impact the future and appearance of your own children.

Dr. Mew has simplified his advice into 3 easy to remember steps:

  1. Lips Together
  2. Teeth Together
  3. Tongue on Roof of Mouth
The maxilla. Image Source

So how do these this improve your appearance? They encourages your face to grow horizontally, rather than vertically. The key facial bone responsible for this change in growth is the maxilla, aka the upper jaw. By growing outward, rather than downward the maxilla supports the face and produces better looking jaws and cheekbones.

The mandible. Image Source

The mandible aka the jawline grows downward with a retruded maxilla. The angle of the mandible impacts the appearance of your jawline. If you’ve ever seen a person with a seemingly non-existent jaw or chin, they likely have a retruded maxilla and grew up with poor oral posture.

On the other hand somebody with a projecting jawline, has had great horizontal growth and oral posture which allowed the jaw to grow out of the neck rather than into the neck. Dr. Mew’s advice of keeping the lips together, the teeth together and the tongue on the roof of the mouth means the face has nowhere to grow but outward. Letting your jaw hang by keeping your mouth open or not keeping your teeth together allows the face to “melt”.

Your lips should be together whenever you aren’t speaking or eating. Even while sleeping, your lips should be together. This is so you develop the habit of breathing only through your nose. Mouth-breathing encourages the vertical growth of the face.

In a study performed on rhesus monkeys, scientists blocked their nasal airways which meant the monkeys had to keep their mouths open in order to breathe. By the end of the study, the monkeys which were breathing through the mouth developed longer and narrower faces compared to their counterparts which were breathing the proper way through the nose. You can imagine the same holds true for humans. By keeping the lips open and breathing through the mouth, the maxilla “melts” narrowing the face and contributing to a range of unattractive features like malocclusion, a gummy smile, weak jawline, and a retruded chin.

Another study performed on Japanese Macaque monkeys found similar results. Those with greater respiratory obstruction (through blockage of the nasal airway) experienced “…downward and backward rotation of the mandible…” as well as anterior open bite among other undesirable features. Here’s what anterior open bite looks like in humans:

Result of Bad Oral Posture in Humans
An open bite in humans. Source

So what about keeping the tongue on the roof of the mouth? What’s that supposed to do? Well there is something known as Wolff’s Law which basically states that healthy bones will adapt to the pressure that is applied to them.

The thinking here is that by keeping the tongue on the roof of the mouth, you’re applying pressure to the maxilla which supports it upwards and discourages it from sinking downwards. You may be thinking, “How can my tongue change my bone, it isn’t strong enough!?” You achieve this by applying a comparably low amount of pressure for a long period of time.

If this theory holds true, you’ll be able to prevent the maxilla from sinking further as you age which will worsen your appearance and maybe, just maybe, with enough time you’d even be able to lift it upward making you more attractive. The process would be a long one, likely years until you see enough change in the face to make a difference if any. Young children around ages 6-9 can see tangible improvements in a relatively short amount of time. You can see success stories on their site.

Weston Price was a researcher famous for documenting the diets of tribes and primitive people around the world. He claimed it was a lack of sufficient vitamins or minerals which led to the rise of malocclusion in the Western world unlike Dr. Mew who claims improper oral posture is responsible.

Whatever the reason may be, nearly every person living in these primitive societies, eating a diet which consisted of mostly hard foods, had perfect teeth with a wide palate, and normal bites without the access to dental care. This suggests that dental problems are not in anyway normal or natural. We’re the only mammal with dental problems this common and it’s not because of genetics.

So this has led to a new normal in our society. Crooked teeth, and the removal of wisdom teeth is considered a normal part of growing up today and you’re considered lucky if you didn’t need braces. The fact is, most attractive faces are similar across cultures and share a commonality of traits depending on the gender. Faces with proper horizontal development (that grew out) tend to be more attractive than faces with excessive vertical growth (that grew down). Our faces are supposed to have enough room for all of the teeth (including the wisdom teeth) and a naturally beautiful smile.

So what’s the takeaway?

  1. Keep your lips together
  2. Keep your teeth together
  3. Keep the tongue on the roof of your mouth

These habits lead to a more attractive appearance by encouraging the face to grow horizontally and outward rather than vertically and inward. Unless you’re doing heavy exercise, mouth-breathing should be avoided because it promotes that unattractive downward growth of the face. Adult faces can change as they age and often it’s for the worse.

Whether following Dr. Mew’s advice can improve the appearance of adult faces is up for debate but it isn’t a stretch to say it can prevent the deterioration of your appearance as you get older. The maxilla will gradually collapse without proper support and you may find yourself looking worse as you age for reasons other than saggy skin. These changes are very subtle but they do make a difference.

If you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Mew and his findings watch his fascinating talk below where he delves deeper into these topics.

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