Professor John Mew, born in 1928, is a dentist, researcher, orthodontist as well as an anthropologist. His father was a dentist from whom he developed his interest in dentistry. His lateral-thinking mind allowed him to question whether the causes of malocclusion were genetic or influenced by environmental factors and he actually provided answers.
In 1965, he became an orthodontist after being qualified as Maxillofacial surgeon in 1953. He found quite perplexing how the aim of corrective jaw surgery was (and still is) to bring the maxilla and mandible forward (as can be seen in the example of Figure 2), while orthodontics was actually further receding the maxilla by extracting teeth (usually the upper premolars, as in the case of Figure 3).
His father was already a visionary, performing palate expansion at a time where teeth extraction was the routine procedure in orthodontics. By reviewing his father’s patients records, John Mew found interesting how after-treatment of palate expansions were with three possible outcomes:
- Either the palate was relapsing, narrowing again.
- Or the expansion had a stable results.
- Or, most surprisingly, some palates were continuing to expand even after appliances were removed.
It was his spirit of observation and his will to find the truth that allowed him to set the ‘Tropic Premise’ in 1958: the ideal development of the jaws and teeth is dependent on correct oral posture with the tongue resting on the palate, the lips sealed and the teeth in light contact.
He understood that malocclusion was a ‘Postural Deformity’ caused by modern lifestyle. Furthermore, he was able to realize that malocclusion was just a symptom of something bigger: poor craniofacial development. He saw that there were two different types of facial growth (Figure 4):
- Horizontal growth: the face grows up and forward.
- Vertical growth: the face grows down and backward.
He found out that malocclusion was present only in those individuals with a vertical facial growth, affecting also the facial shape, neck posture and airways. It was under these considerations that he founded the London School of Facial Orthotropics and developed the Bioblock Therapy .
His ‘Tropic Premise’ can be seen as an application of the Wolff’s Law and it found confirmation from studies of dentist Egil Peter Harvold: during the 1960s, he performed several experiments on monkeys, in which he induced mouth-breathing in the animals by obstructing the nasal passages [2,3]. Mouth-breathing affected oral posture, with animals lowering the mandible and the tongue, that led to vertical facial growth and malocclusion.
However, the biggest confirmation for the ‘Tropic Premise’ came from John Mew’s patients: many of them were suggested to have surgery, but they were successfully treated by him thanks to appliances aimed to restore correct oral posture. Some of his magnificent results can be admired from Figure 5 to 16.
John Mew has put a milestones in understanding the causes of malocclusion. His pursuit of the truth not only set him questioning common orthodontics practices of his time, but also spur him in creating a new philosophy of treatment for facial growth. He always used to said “There is a reason for everything“. And well, he is right!