Called the DDS System, the device costs nearly $500, and it is custom-made to fit the roof of your mouth.
The manufacturer, Scientific Intake of Atlanta, touts the device as one that promotes behavior-change, rather than calling it a guaranteed weight-loss aid.
The principle behind the appliance is the scientific finding that it takes 15 to 20 minutes for your brain to signal the stomach that it's full and to stop eating. In our hurried society, Americans tend to eat too fast. Fast eaters can do a lot of caloric damage before putting down the fork.
"I love pizza and used to eat five or six pieces," say Debra Gray King, DDS, a cosmetic dentist at the Atlanta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, an unpaid spokeswoman for Scientific Intake, and a first-hand tester of the DDS System. "With the device in place, your mouth is smaller," she says. "You take a smaller bite by the second bite. A normal bite seems way too big. Now, I savor every bite of pizza and don't eat as much."
King also points out that it takes seven minutes to eat a hamburger. Theoretically, one could eat two before the satiety signal was given by the brain.
King says she has lost 2 ½ pounds in the last three weeks. "I am the lowest I have been since I had my last child."
A group of researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge did a two-day study of 32 overweight people, with half the group using the DDS System. The DDS-ers ate 23% less food, or 533 fewer calories. This study is unpublished data funded by Scientific Intake.
"Isn't this kind of an expensive way to do it?" asks Ruth Kava, PhD, RD, director of nutrition of the American Council on Science and Health in New York City. She semi-seriously recommends the Fletcher method of prolonged chewing called "Fletcherizing." Horace Fletcher was a 19th century health guru who suggested chewing everything a hundred times until it turned to liquid and "swallowed itself."
"Even chewing everything 15 times would slow you down and make your food easier to digest," Kava says. And don't forget exercise, she says.
As for the etiquette of inserting the DDS device at the table, King says she manages to do it without attracting attention. "I tell everyone in my family to remind me to use it," she says.
Only dentists who have proper training can make an impression of your mouth and create the device. They are advised not to prescribe it for bulimics, anorexics, or children under the age of 18. For a directory of qualified dentists, go to www.ddssystem.com.
Star Lawrence is a medical journalist based in the Phoenix area.