Fat people just need to shut their mouths, already.

I don’t believe that for a second, but that’s the messaging I get from the latest weight loss device in the news, the Dental Slim Diet Control.

I am so disgusted. 

The Dental Slim is so wrong, I don’t even know where to start. And so many people are DM’ing me about it, I knew I had to put out an official post about it instead of just posting on social media like I did on Twitter a couple days ago:

Dental slim device

Developed by researchers from New Zealand and the UK and said to be the ‘world-first weight-loss device to help fight the global obesity epidemic,’ the device, which is fitted by dentists, uses magnets to lock shut the jaws of people who need to lose weight (allegedly for surgeries, although the study mentions that Dental Slim could be an alternative to weight loss surgery).

The device allows the wearer’s mouth to open only 2mm. Enough to sip. Not enough to chew.

The name of the device – Dental Slim Diet Control – says it all: locking your jaw shut ‘controls’ you and your impulses to eat. 

The problem with people who need to lose weight, lead researcher Professor Paul Brunton says, is that their compliance (with dieting) is a barrier to weight loss.

That’s like saying it’s fat peoples’ fault that they eat too much, willpower be darned (except willpower isn’t a thing where food restriction is concerned).

(Where does fat go when we lose weight? I explain it all here)

The Dental Slim researchers gave this very on-brand quote in their research paper:

Calorie restriction and increased energy expenditure should be successful, although in many people the effects are either negligible or only successful in the short term because of poor motivation and brief adherence to lifestyle changes.

Wait. Did they just imply that fat people who aren’t successful with diets just don’t want to lose weight badly enough? 

The study goes on to claim that “the device could break addictive eating habits and show the benefit of reduced weight to avoid future health problems”

Let me give you a hint: people who have disordered eating need psychological treatment, not a stigmatizing, uncomfortable device like Dental Slim.

Then there was this gem:

One patient admitted to ‘cheating’, consuming melted chocolate and fizzy drinks. This was not surprising as studies have shown that obese patients usually have an addictive personality and an impulsivity for sugary food, and suffer from binge-eating disorders.

Is this a gross generalization, or am I overreacting here?

Don’t message me or comment on this post with remarks about how it all comes down to calories in versus calories out, and that fat people are all responsible for themselves and their food choices. I’m not standing for any of that BS in response to this piece. 

I’m going to say it one more time, LOUD, for the people in the back:


The whole ‘fat people just eat too much’ argument is so harmful, obtuse, and outdated. 

Weight is a complex issue, often involving one or more of the following: genetics, socioeconomics, upbringing, metabolism, history of trauma, access to food, education level, gender, race…should I continue?

Obese people don’t need control, they don’t need restriction. They don’t need ugly generalizations about who they are and what their problems might be. 

Fat people bear the brunt of society’s disdain. Rampant weight discrimination means they receive sub-par pay, sub-par medical care, and negative attitudes and stereotypes from the general population.

Oddl,y the intro of the Dental Slim study acknowledges all of this:

(With obesity) 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.

Yes but, I have a question:

How does magnetizing someone’s jaw shut in what amounts to a medieval torture device NOT perpetuate the negative stereotype that fat people should endure what thin people don’t have to?

Can you imagine being unable to open your mouth to eat, but also to speak properly? Eating and speaking are nothing if you’re going to lose weight at the end of it all…is that their point?

How about we research doing surgery on fat people, versus continuing with the ridiculousness of making them crash diet to qualify for an operation?

The Dental Slim Trial.

Dental Slim was tested with a low-calorie liquid diet on 7 obese participants for 14 days.

During that time, the participants experienced what all of us could have predicted right off the top:

(Issues with) Speech, feeling tense and unsatisfactory oral hygiene steeply increased between baseline and 14-day follow-up.

They felt life was ‘less satisfying.’

They had issues speaking.

They said the device was ‘hard to use.’

All participants gained weight back within 2 weeks of the study.

Professor Brunton claims that there are ‘no adverse consequences’ from Dental Slim. I don’t believe that for one second.

He reminds me of the doctor I recently argued with on Twitter, who insisted that long-term, multiple-day water fasting is healthy because peoples’ health indicators improve with it. He kindly forwarded me a 1973 study of some guy who fasted for something like 273 days, and survived. 

He didn’t have an answer for me when I commented about the psychological effects of fasting for days on end. 

dental slim
Look! I muted him. I don’t like to deal with people who insist on ignoring the emotional consequences of telling patients to not eat for days.

I eventually ended up muting his bloviating idiocy, but here’s the thing:

People who actually work with people, and not just in a lab, hopefully understand that all physical indicators aside, there are psychological effects of the treatments they are asking people to undertake for their health. 

Psychological effects, I would argue, are just as important as physical ones.

Sure, people may lose weight and come off of their diabetes medications if they regularly fast for 4 days in a row. 

And of course, if you lock someone’s jaw shut so they can’t eat solid food, and you concurrently put them on a low-calorie liquid diet, they’ll lose weight. Participants in the Dental Slim study lost an average of 5% of their body weight (about 6kg). 

But at what cost are these results?  (Read my post about the cost benefit of diets

How does it feel to be denied food for the purpose of weight loss? Not just on a diet, but in an extreme treatment that makes eating off-limits altogether?

How does having their jaw locked shut impact the other areas of their life? 

Doesn’t quality of life matter? 

Yes, being obese can affect quality of life. But why are we even spending the money to research these sorts of punishing methods for weight loss? Why aren’t we spending it on figuring out how to care for obese people so that they aren’t treated like second-class citizens?

In the 1980s, long-term jaw wiring for weight loss did exist, but it appeared to lead to psychological issues such as depression in patients. 

Not to mention, liquid diets are horrible, and weight regain after discontinuing them is almost guaranteed. So unless someone is going to live the rest of their life with this device in their mouth, I’m not sure what the point of it even is. 

Samantha Goren RD, a dietitian who specializes in eating disorders, had this to say about Dental Slim:

The experience of literally having your jaw surgically shut could definitely cause trauma as you could imagine. I would also think, the experience of having a health professional suggest such a procedure could be somewhat traumatizing in and of itself. 

Additionally, it could trigger an eventual eating disorder or cause that person to have an unhealthy relationship with food long term. 

Similar to any restrictive diet, the imposed restriction and restraint may result in short-term weight loss, but cause you to engage in overeating or binging once the magnets come off. Long term you will likely gain the weight back plus more. 

Study participants did say at the end of the trial that they were ‘happy with the outcome’ and that the device ‘was tolerable.’

The fact that people were willing to subject themselves to this treatment in order to lose weight shows us the pervasiveness of diet culture and the feelings that it’s better to suffer in a thin body, than live freely in a fat one.

If Dental Slim is considered to be a replacement for weight loss surgery, presumably participants would wear it for much longer than two weeks at a time, even if the total duration isn’t made up of consecutive weeks. What would happen to someone if they had this device for longer than 14 days? 

This is a possibility: the study mentions that the device can be re-installed into a person numerous times. 

The shortsightedness and sheer offensiveness of both Dental Slim and the comments from the researchers who developed it, show us that there are still people in this world who believe that being thinner at any cost is an appropriate course of treatment for fat people. 

That the size of someone’s body automatically qualifies them as a candidate to suffer physically and emotionally.

That fat people just need to shut their mouths. 

Read the Dental Slim study here.