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Medical professionals have developed a weight-loss tool that takes the concept of forced dieting to new extremes.

Called DentalSlim Control, the device is attached inside the mouth and prevents the wearer from opening their jaws more than two milimeters wide for as long as it’s worn.

The whole idea behind the device is to essentially force users into abstaining from eating during designated periods, and will only allow liquids to pass into the mouth, basically ensuring that wearers stick to any sort of liquid diet that they may have already planned to adopt.

IMAGE: University of Otago

The DentalSlim Control device was developed by medical experts from the University of Otago, New Zealand, as well as another team from the UK, and was designed as a tool to “help fight the global obesity epidemic”, according to the university.

Claiming it as a “world-first”, the team designed the device to be fitted by a dentist onto the wearer’s upper and lower rear molars, and then functions by using magnets and locking bolts to keep the mouth from opening wide enough to accept solid food. Crucially, though, the device still allows for the user to speak freely and breath through the mouth if necessary.

IMAGE: University of Otago

Elaborating on the features of the device, Professor Paul Brunton – the Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Otago’s Health Sciences division and the lead researcher for DentalSlim Control – said that the device could be released by the user using a special tool in case of an emergency, and called the device a “non-invasive, reversible, economical, and attractive alternative to surgical procedures”.

“The fact is that there are no adverse consequences with this device,” he said.

Gluttons for punishment?

Following its reveal, many people online have ridiculed the contraption and have likened it to a “creepy” and “bizarre” torture device, with some pointing out that fighting obesity was more than just about clamping a person’s mouth shut and preventing them from taking in extra calories.

Even more telling was how some individuals who actually used the device claimed that it was difficult to wear on a regular basis, with complaints ranging from issues such as physical discomfort in the mouth, to developing sensations of “being dissatisfied with life”.

One user even claimed that they found a way to circumnavigate the device’s restrictions by melting chocolate and then drinking it as a liquid, which pointed out one of the DentalSlim Control’s flaws.

Addressing some of the criticisms the device received, the university responded a statement trying to defend and explain the rationale behind the device.

“To clarify, the intention of the device is not intended as a quick or long-term weight-loss tool; rather it is aimed to assist people who need to undergo surgery and who cannot have the surgery until they have lost weight,” the statement said.

“After two or three weeks, they can have the magnets disengaged and device removed. They could then have a period with a less restricted diet and then go back into treatment,” the university added. “This would allow for a phased approach to weight loss supported by advice from a dietician.”

On the flip side, some participants in a trial for the DentalSlim Control have admitted to the device having a positive effect on their weight-loss journey, with a group of participants losing an average of 6.36 kilograms in the space of two weeks and feeling motivated to continue making progress.

Professor Paul Brunton from the University of Otago with the DentalSlim Control device. IMAGE: University of Otago

Using such results as an argument for the device, Brunton circled back to the core element that his team claims is the driver for the device’s success – being compliant.

“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,” he said. “It really kick-starts the process.”

While some individuals do actually require methods to help themselves lose weight, it still does seem as if using a device such as the DentalSlim Control may just be taking things too far. Combine the fact that you’re forced into an extremely unsatisfying diet with the inability to open your mouth freely, and you find yourself in a pretty antagonizing situation.

After all, similar methods have been tested and discarded in the past. For example, the practice of wiring mouths shut was widely tried in the 1970s and 1980’s, although complications such as choking risks due to vomiting, gum diseases, and the development of psychiatric conditions eventually caused such practices to be scrapped.

It remains to be seen how the DentalSlim Control device will be improved to make wearing it more bearable (and humane) for its users, and whether or not the product will ever gain a foothold in the weight-loss device market.

Would you ever consider using such a device to lose weight?

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Cover image sourced from The Guardian and Dimensions of Dental Hygiene.

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