About six months ago I got the urge to chew stuff. Hard-to-chew stuff. I was even thinking about getting some rawhide from the pet store or something (relax, I didn’t). I started pondering chewing, and it led me down a really long rabbit hole involving ABC gum, a toad, and a gimp.
Now, be forewarned that if you are a health fanatic or recovering health fanatic with OCD tendencies, you should probably just stop reading here. You run the risk of becoming suddenly and tirelessly obsessed with your tongue position and other crazy stuff that’s just not likely to improve the quality of your life in any way.
But for those of you with a curious mind, read on. If I’m bothering to dust off the blog for the first time in over a year to write about it (and I’ve been’stewing over this post for months now), then you know it’s going to be fascinating.
First off, let me mention the first few thoughts I had before I began looking into this topic.
- I remember growing up that my dad told me, when we got a new puppy, that it needed to chew a lot, and that it should eat dry, hard dog food rather than soft dog food precisely because this was “good for its teeth.” This seemed like common knowledge, yet it seemed humans were always being discouraged from putting things in their mouth from a young age and fed only the very softest of foods as if this fundamental truth didn’t apply to us
- I thought about how other species have to chew all their food raw, and that they often spend hours chewing very difficult-to-chew foods
- I thought about the importance of resistance exercise in maintaining the hardness and density of bones, and I figured the same certainly had to apply to teeth
This was kind of the foundation from which I explored.
If you know the history of this site, you’ll know that in 2007 I began broadly studying health, nutrition, and related fields obsessively. Some of the most interesting stuff I came across right away was the work of Weston A. Price.
Ol’ Weston A. Price, post-humously deified as a health guru by the popular-ish Weston A. Price and Price Pottenger Foundations, did something that really seems to have deeply touched millions of modern humans–he went on a worldwide voyage of Darwin-esque proportions to see what the last remaining primitive peoples did and ate, and how that affected their health.
He was most interested in the field of dentistry, so his studies were focused primarily on tooth decay and malocclusion (crooked teeth).
As you know, just about EVERYONE in the modern world has had both tooth decay and malocclusion. Weston A. Price showed, definitively and irrefutably, that having these two conditions is NOT normal or natural. These conditions ranged from uncommon to unheard of in the isolated tribes he encountered in 14 separate regions of the globe–from Masai warriors in Africa to the Eskimo.
It’s captivating research.
Price’s conclusion was that the changes in food–particularly the nutrient density and profile of the food–was to blame for the widespread “physical degeneration” that he observed when modern food was introduced. He thought fat soluble vitamins A, D, and K2 were the most important “activators” of proper genetic expression as it pertained to healthy teeth and full formation of the dental arch (broad enough to accommodate all 32 teeth, including the wisdom teeth, without the crookedness that results from crowding).
Price also made interesting observations about other changes in facial form. He noted that narrowed nostrils and elongated faces accompanied the more narrow dental arch, and he made particular mention of “mouth breathing” as a new, degenerative phenomenon as well.
All this makes some sense right? I mean, we know that vitamin D and K2 in particular, combined with minerals like calcium, are super important in the formation of bones and teeth n’ stuff. Don’t we?
Actually, some of the most malnourished people in the world have some of the best bones, teeth, nostrils, and jaw formation. Vegans, for example, LOVE to point out that low bone density is more common in countries with the highest calcium consumption, while the best bone density can be found in places with a nutrient-poor diet. Like Africa.
And that’s because bone density doesn’t have much to do with nutrient intake as long as you are getting enough to avoid overt deficiency, which almost everyone is.
If you want better bone density and to avoid osteoporosis, toss the minerals and fat soluble vitamins aside and put your focus on weight-bearing exercise! Weightlifting and alpine skiing will give you much better bone density. It’s not even close.
Turns out the same thing is true with the formation of the jaw. Humans have weak teeth and deformed faces compared to historical norms… because we eat soft, calorie-dense, little-chewing-required food!
Yes folks, Price missed the big one, and a generation of unfortunate kids were forced to choke down toxic and disgusting cod liver oil! Bleh! Some health gurus who religiously followed Price’s teachings friggin’ died from guzzling too much of it! (R.I.P. Rami Nagel and Ron Schmid).
Quite simply, our jaws are narrower and our teeth are softer and more pathetic and prone to tooth decay, cracking, and other problems, primarily because we don’t chew enough!
Just like our bones and muscles and posture suck because we spend too much time sitting around in front of screens instead of climbing, jumping, dancing, lifting shit, walking, running, and so on. The body, quite simply, does not tend to allocate energy and matter to areas of the body that aren’t in use. What isn’t getting used atrophies, or doesn’t form properly at all.
Yet, millions of misled health seekers are sitting around eating even MORE cheese than a typical American, and thinking that if their butter is yellow enough or their pigs have a good enough suntan, that some kind of magic will happen.
Hey, nothing wrong with a nutritious diet, but exercise, including exercise of the jaw, is a much bigger factor.
Meet Dr. Mew
Thanks to Steven Edholm for the heads up on Dr. Mew. I mentioned my interest in chewing, teeth, and the jaw in a comment on the blog, and Steven shared his work. By the way, Steven is a long-time 180D friend and follower, and is quickly becoming a bit of a YouTube celebrity with his channel SkillCult. I’m super proud of him, and also super proud that 180D was able to captivate someone so intelligent and talented. It reflects highly on all of us losers here, haha.
So yeah, Mew was just EXACTLY what I was looking for as I got curious about the subject. Like getting interested in metabolism and finding Ray Peat, I was thrilled to find someone who had come to similar conclusions as my own but had WAY more in-depth knowledge and experience accumulated over decades.
To be honest, the guy strikes me as being weird as fuck. And he is a pretty terrible speaker, in part because he insists on doing some strange swallowing thing (called the Mew Push Swallow) with his tongue as part of his whole facial structure and function philosophy, but who cares. The dude is just plain RIGHT. About a lot of stuff. And I love him for it.
And it turns out this whole chewing thing is really important. It’s not just an aesthetic thing. When the facial bones aren’t properly stimulated, the jaw slopes downward, elongating the face and narrowing both the dental arch and the nostrils (which makes it harder to breathe through the nose, causing mouth-breathing). A narrow dental arch also causes there to be no room for your tongue, and when there’s no room for your tongue, you have to do one or more of the following things to compensate:
- Stick your neck out farther (forward head posture)
- Open your mouth to breathe (remember Price’s mouth breathing fascination)
It probably goes even further than that. A narrowed airway that’s clogged up with a crowded tongue leads to sleep apnea and snoring, which is correlated with all kinds of horrible things. Diabetes n’ stuff. I suspect mouth-breathing alters breathing physiology as well via exhaling excess carbon dioxide, altering metabolism negatively, reducing stress tolerance, and other things you may have encountered from the work of Ray Peat or Konstantin Buteyko. Mouth breathing is also terrible for dental health, as it dries out your protective saliva.
Mew even thinks the forward head posture that supposedly results from a dental arch that’s too small can cause a variety of postural problems leading to a flat ass and flabby abs. Get your first taste of Mew below…
Get a full bottle of the Mew in his more thorough presentation…
This is where this whole adventure gets pretty hilarious. After watching some Dr. Mew videos and pondering buying doggie chew toys to strengthen my jaw and teeth, the highly-pinpointed advertising machine on YouTube presented me with exactly what I had been looking for–a jaw workout device for humans.
Yes, I got hit with this commercial, which is, if you didn’t know anything about the importance of jaw exercise for improving and maintaining facial structure, totally hilarious. If you DO know about the importance of jaw exercise, it’s still pretty hilarious…
But undoubtedly more hilarious was Infinite Elgintensity’s roast of Jawzrsize…
Love that guy.
Fortunately, I don’t think you need to go full gimp and chew on a ball gag to get great results. Don’t let me stop you, but I think it’s probably better to chew on something that allows you to chew through a broader range of motion. Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know. But I’m totally good with giant wads of gum. And, because I chew like 15 pieces of gum in one huge ass wad, and because I want it to be quite stiff and difficult to chew, well…
I chew ABC gum.
There I said it. Kinda gross, but I don’t have a better alternative at the moment. Anyone want to make some natural gum in giant pieces at a low cost for me to chew? Please help a brother out.
Dr. Mew recommends chewing a big ass piece of gum and working it all around your mouth for about a half hour a day. That sounds kind of silly, but chewing gum is actually pretty fun. I wouldn’t mind it. HOWEVER…
I really don’t think you need to do very much chewing to properly stimulate the jaw, increase the musculature in your face, broaden the dental arch, and strengthen the teeth.
And that’s where the final mystery enters the picture…
I’m talking about Matt Stonie (yes, that’s a real person, not a fictitious cousin of mine, and not a typo), aka “Megatoad.”
Matt Stonie is a competitive eater, and his jaw and facial structure has undergone truly MASSIVE changes over the few years that I have followed him. I mean, his face looks completely different from a few years ago.
But what the hell? He eats a bunch of soft foods like burgers and fries and giant tubs of mayonnaise. Why would his jaw muscles hypertrophy and his face widen? He probably does less chewing than nearly everyone. What about that, Dr. Mew?!
Building muscles, strength, power, and undergoing tremendous physiological alterations is not about how much you chew. Just like in weight training, it’s about short bursts of extremely intense exercise through a full range of motion, working the muscles to their maximum threshold, and then resting for days or even a week or longer before doing another hard “workout.”
When you shove as much food in your mouth as possible and eat it as quickly as possible, chewing hard for 3-10 minutes without pause, you are doing some really intense work. And that’s what triggers dramatic adaptations. Watch how hard that kid’s jaw is working when he is eating. That’s some SERIOUS bite force! Watch your fingers bro!
In conclusion, I think the best thing to do with all this information is to do a little bout of high-intensity chewing to muscular failure once or twice a week. That’s all I do, and I believe it will help long-term. The muscles in my jaw, face, neck, and sides of my head are definitely larger and stronger than before, it’s been an enjoyable practice, and it’s only taken up an average of about 30 minutes of my time per month. Not 30 minutes per day!
My teeth also feel stronger. Prior to starting, one of the things that was making me feel a strong urge to chew was my two front teeth feeling kind of weak and brittle. Not anymore.
Maybe in a matter of years my dental arch will have even expanded a little bit. That would be pretty cool, although, to be sure, this stuff is much more effective if it’s started at a young age while the jaw is still developing (although don’t be fooled, our bones/skeletons are always changing in response to stimuli, just VERY slowly).
And, if you do nothing, your jaw will get smaller as you age, further crowding your teeth, elongating your face, clogging your airway, worsening your head posture, and so on. Very interesting as I’ve seen this in my own mom, whose lifelong straight teeth have suddenly gone slightly crooked. It’s possible to prevent this.
Okay, well. Hope you enjoyed this post. I’ll be retreating back into obscurity now. After answering some comments for a few days of course :)
If anyone has any better ideas for something to chew on besides a gimp ball or some nasty-ass old Bazooka that’s already been chewed about 6 times, please chime in!