Can chewing gum change the shape of your face?

There can be more than genetics to the shape of our face, says Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care

Five minutes of gum chewing twice a day can significantly increase your maximum bite force and improve jawline
Lucy Stock

Surveying the 20-week scan of my third child, I saw that the baby had the same square head as that of my other two boys and my husband.

I was so convinced that I was having another boy that I brought a blue car seat and boy baby clothes into the hospital for the birth. As the midwife proclaimed that it was actually a girl, a stunned silence preceded a speedy shopping trip for more appropriate clothes.

Watching the three of them grow up, I always joke that they are a family of square heads, myself being the odd one out with a long face.

The scientific terms for the three main face shapes are: dolichocephalic (a long face as sported by the Welsh comedian Rob Brydon); mesocephalic (a square face like Chris 'Thor' Hemsworth); and brachycephalic (a short face that the king of comedy Rowan Atkinson utilises to its full capacity).

Face shape is not just determined by genetics. Other factors affect how our face grows. Things like what foods we eat, the motion and size of our tongue, airway efficiency and how hard we bite down when we chew.

One study showed that the more force we use to chew, the squarer our face shape. Squarer face-shaped people tend to have larger jaws and thus less tooth crowding. Another animal study has shown that animals fed on soft diets had smaller cheek muscles and smaller lower jaws.

Our faces keep developing up to around 25 years old. That's why young people go to college appearing childlike and come out more adult-looking. This means there is the potential to positively influence jaw growth and facial development well into our twenties.

My teenage son has recently developed a chewing gum habit which is giving his facial muscles a daily workout. This habit is beneficial as it may help stimulate his jaw growth and improve his facial development.

A small 2018 study demonstrated that only five minutes of gum chewing twice a day can significantly increase your maximum bite force. If the gum is sugar-free it will also help to reduce his chances of getting cavities – a double bonus.