Yes, This 'Weight Loss Device' Really Locks Your Jaw Shut

It uses magnets to fight obesity, and it has been described as a 'torture device' by some.
Brad Bergan
The jaw-locking device clamped to a model jaw.University of Ortega

It turns out, keeping your mouth shut can cause weight loss.

Researchers have developed an unprecedented weight-loss device capable of fighting the global obesity epidemic that works by magnetically clamping your jaw shut, according to a recent study published in the British Dental Journal.

Just to be clear: This is a device to magnetically lock your jaw into a "liquids and speech-only" position. And, surprisingly, it could save lives.

A magnetic 'jaw clamp' to discourage overeating

Called the DentalSlim Diet Control, the device is an intra-oral contraption professionally fitted by a dentist to the lower and upper back teeth. Employing magnetic devices, it uses locking bolts manufactured to the unique specifications of everyone's mouth. This probably sounds practically medieval, but for those who have at last arrived at the need for final resorts, this jaw-locking contraption keeps the mouth from opening more than 2 mm (0.078 inches), which means with this thing on, all you can do is drink liquids, breathe, and speak (or complain).

A study trial in Dunedin saw participants lose an average of 14 lbs (6.36 kg) in two weeks, and reported feeling newly motivated to continue losing weight, presumably without a metal clamp holding their mouths shut. According to Paul Brunton, the lead researcher of the University of Otago Health Sciences and Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor, the device will become an effective, safe, and cheap means for people in a fight with obesity. Any dentist can put this in your mouth, and, thankfully, the user can release the mouth clamp in case of an emergency. And yes, it can be repeatedly fitted and removed, so previous wearers who have decided to resume their battle with obesity can have an encore journey.

"The main barrier for people for successful weight loss is compliance and this helps them establish new habits, allowing them to comply with a low-calorie diet for a period of time," said Brunton in a blog post shared on the University of Otago's official website. "It really kick-starts the process. It is a non-invasive, reversible, economical and attractive alternative to surgical procedures." Attractive, he says. "The fact is, there are no adverse consequences to this device."

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Magnetic 'jaw clamp' could save lives

While some of the adjectives used to describe this device feel ... off, the fact remains that 1.9 billion adults globally are overweight, with another 650 million suffering from obesity. Existing in an overweight or obese body is linked to 2.8 million deaths annually, with 57% of the world's adult population expected to be or become obese or overweight by the year 2030. "In addition, psychological symptoms may be present, including embarrassment, depression and loss of self-esteem and obese people may suffer eating disorders together with stigmatization and discrimination," added Brunton in the blog post.

An earnestly clinical application lies in installing one of these mouth clamps in someone who must lose weight before they can safely undergo surgery, in addition to diabetes patients, who could initiate remission via weight loss. Bariatric surgery is a significant player in the management of morbid obesity, but it costs roughly $24,000, can't handle the epidemic levels of worldwide obesity, and forces patients to "live with the consequences of that for life, which can be quite unpleasant" said Brunton. In the 1980s, sometimes people's jaws were wired shut, but this came with some predictable risks: Wearers might vomit, which could cause them to choke. Additionally, patients with wired jaws developed gum disease in 9 to 12 months.

And, of course, sometimes restricting jaw movement causes acute psychiatric side effects. "Alternative strategies are required which may obviate surgery, or which reduce weight prior to surgery and so make it easier and safer. The beauty of it is that once patients are fitted with the device, after two or three weeks they can have the magnets disengaged," explained Brunton. "They could then have a period with a less restricted diet and then go back into treatment." This may not be the most appealing alternative to voluntary dieting and exercise, but for people who have run out of options, or are prevented from critical surgery due to morbid obesity, this could be the answer. Who knows, anything's possible.

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