We all know how it is – we’ve all had those moments when we are trying to provide patients with treatment and they suddenly tell us about a video they have seen on YouTube or something they have read on Facebook which completely contradicts the advice we’re giving. But should we be doing more to stop this spread of misinformation and take our profession back into our own hands?
I was recently scanning the internet for topics when I came across a new trend I hadn’t heard of – mewing. While this may sound like something you’d be more likely to find on one of the millions of cat videos that call social media their home, it is actually a sort of technique that people are claiming can help shape the jawline and face, as well as prevent a number of health problems.
Supposedly achieved by pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth until this becomes its default resting position, this strange fad has claimed to be able to help with breathing and swallowing problems, sleep apnoea, speech disorders, sinusitis and TMJ disorders. Of course, as with most of these online fads, there is no evidence to support that mewing helps with any of these things, let alone makes a substantial difference.[i]
Luckily, unlike some other fads which people seem to follow online, mewing doesn’t appear to be dangerous. However, what this is doing is spreading misinformation that may result in people not seeking proper help when they are suffering from disorders such as sleep apnoea.
So, what can we do? I think the most important thing is to speak to patients regularly about any ideas they have seen online and discuss whether they are following any of these fads. This way, you can take the time to give them proper advice and stop the spread of misinformation.
It may also be worth thinking about reporting any videos you come across with harmful content. Mewing is fairly safe, but videos promoting things like at home orthodontics and at home tooth bleaching are potentially very harmful, and these should be flagged so that YouTube or any other social media channel can look into them appropriately and delete them if necessary.