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Is Wiring Your Jaw a Reasonable Alternative to Bariatric Surgery?

Whether you live in Huntsville, AL or any other place on this planet, you discover one thing is true about humanity. We are good at adapting. People search for new ways to solve basic problems in a variety of areas. Is food scarce, and you can’t follow a herd of animals all the time? Plant some seeds. Do you want a way to cope with the loss of their loved one? Bury their remains. Gaining too much weight? Stop eating, exercise and get bariatric surgery if neither of those things work. But, with each new solution or system, there are complex details that arrive. This is especially true in the complicated world of surgery. It can look like fine-tuning a technique such as changing a tool or tweaking procedural habits. It can also look like trying a new method to produce desired results.

There are a lot of barriers that make bariatric surgery inaccessible to people who could use it. For example, they may have no one to take care of them post-op. Or they cannot afford to miss work and pay out of pocket for medical expenses. Or, they feel too ashamed to make that call to the doctor and get what they need. So, just like any other human innovation, someone came up with a solution to this problem. Wiring your jaw shut.

But how effective is this method? Has there been any record of this having been done before? What is the measure of success with this method? Why are people seriously considering this as a path to weight loss?

Wiring your Jaw to Lose Weight is Not a New Idea

The funny thing about ideas is that they never come out of nowhere. No one can write a new musical note that the human ear can hear, or invent a fresh smell out of thin air. It does not work like that. Instead, we get our ideas from the surrounding elements. From there, we reconfigure those elements into something else that takes shape. So, there should be no surprise to anyone that something like this already existed in 1st century Europe.

In a municipality of Leon, Spain, King Sancho the 1st had a serious weight problem. He had gotten so obese, that his horses could no longer carry him, and the nobles serving under him were sick of dealing with it. They exiled “Sancho the Fat” to place someone else on the throne, and he had no choice but to ask a doctor for help. A family member recommended him to a Jewish doctor from the Middle East, Hasdai ibn Shaprut.

Hasadi treated the king by keeping his mouth sewn shut for 2 months, save for a small opening that a straw could fit through. The only food that the doctor allowed him to ingest was a mixture of salt water, orange flower water, boiled fruits and vegetables, herbs, wine, and multiple opiates. It worked, and he could walk long distances again, as well as a horse and lift a sword again. Both were activities that are important for gaining and keeping a throne in this time period. He would eventually take back his crown and keep it for a few more years until his assassination.

This example may seem dated to you, but it was the first thing on record that resembles wiring your jaw to lose weight. There are more recent examples. In fact, jaw wiring was a popular died method not to long ago.

The 80s Jaw Wiring Diet Craze

Then let’s look at America about 30-40 years ago. The 80s didn’t just bring America Regan and Jazzercise video tapes. It was also a time when wiring your jaw shut was a diet trend. Dentists and physicians recommended and fitted similar jaw wiring devices for morbidly obese patients.

The device gets attached to your top and bottom teeth with a combination of screws and magnets. Then, the patient receives an all liquid diet for a certain amount of time which would help facilitate weight loss.

The treatment would last as long as 6 to 12 months and aimed to reduce weight with no bariatric surgery. Why do we know about this? Doctors wrote about it in scientific periodicals that date back to 1981.

So, this novel alternative to weight loss surgery is far from new. But, has it been effective? The short answer is “Yes, but with added consequences.”

It turns out that there was a reason that jaw wiring fell out of favor at the end of the 80s. It wasn’t because jaw wiring wasn’t effective. In fact the patients in that study only gained back 1/6th of the initial weight loss that came from wiring.

However, too many patients had poor dental hygiene while having their mouth wired shut, which created a serious problem of tooth decay. Another reason it fell out of favor was the severe psychiatric issues that resulted in the prolonged use of the device. Patients reported feeling guilt and shame for being in public with that device. There was also the added risk of choking thanks to a small opening and having your speech permanently affected.

Backlash Against the Weight Loss Surgery Alternative

Eating a burger
Eating a burger

So it would not be a surprise to anyone that there is immediate backlash after its announcement on Twitter.

Eating disorder experts, nutritionists, and even the public looked in horror as the lead researcher of the device made outrageous claims. According to Professor Paul Brunton, “The device is a non-invasive, reversible, economical, and attractive alternative to surgical procedures. “

The public and experts in related fields were quick to voice their criticism. A few examples include:

“It completely oversimplifies the issue of obesity, reduces the process of weight loss to a question of compliance and willpower and ignores the many complex factors involved, which may include eating disorders” – Tom Quinn, Director of External Affairs for Beat” .

This approach is a fat shaming tactic. People who are about to undergo weight loss surgery should be working to repair their relationship with food pre-op, not waiting until after. ” – Dr Joan Salge Blake, Nutrition Professor at Boston University.

Even the study itself admits,”-When questioned , participants mentioned that the device was too bulky and visible, and they could not enjoy social events, such as family dinners” and “The effect of episodic wear on the periodontal support for the anchor teeth needs to be investigated.”

What can a university who backed the study do once they incur the wrath of the Internet? They could ignore it. Or you can offer a sincere apology. Instead, they chose to lie to save face. “To clarify, the intention of the device is not intended as a quick or long term weight loss tool; it is aimed to assist people who need to undergo surgery.”

If that was true, then why does it state that it was an affordable alternative in the paper? Why use the language ‘safe and affordable tool’, if you are just planning on using the device as a pre-op measure?

The worst part about this study, and pitch was that this version of the jaw wire was not made by any weight loss surgery experts. The lead of the team, Professor Paul Brunton is a dental expert. He knows nothing about weight loss surgery, or the conditions that cause it in the first place.

Conclusion : See a Weight Loss Surgery Expert – Not A Dentist

Instead of addressing the complex causes of obesity, such as systemic or behavioral problems, the developers of this device clearly saw this as an opportunity to create a product to exploit the public as an “affordable alternative”.

If you are serious about losing weight, you need to talk to experts and get an entire support system on your side. You need to address your relationship with food, and figure out what works for you individually. That is why at Alabama Bariatrics, we take a multidisciplinary approach for not just losing weight but changing habits so you can keep it off. We can even offer an affordable payment plan.

Feel free to contact us online, or give us a call if you have any questions.