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Dentists Offer Weight-Loss Aid

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Jun. 11--It's the jaws of life.

In reverse.

Instead of prying open wrecked cars so that victims can get out, this piece of hardware keeps someone's mouth nearly shut so that food can barely get in.

The harder it is to work a forkful of spaghetti carbonara past the DDS System, the easier it is to eat less and, theoretically, lose weight.

It's the biting-off-less-than-you-can-chew diet.

Anxiously awaiting her own device to be sent from Scientific Intake, the Atlanta-based laboratory that makes the retainer-like DDS, is M. Sandra Casper, a Fox Point dentist.

At her house, she said, home-cooked family meals of sea bass or creamy risotto "are wolfed down in ten minutes. Our society is in such a rush, and by consuming hundreds and hundreds of calories in a short time, it's easy to overeat."

Scientific Intake's own research indicates that DDS users eat 23 percent less just by popping the device into their mouths before they tuck into each meal.

William Longley, the firm's chief executive officer, said 2,500 dentists have taken the four-hour certification course to fit the appliances.

Nationwide, about 3,000 devices have been sold in the few weeks it's been available.

Local dentists are starting to take orders, but no devices have been delivered or are in use here yet.

When they tell these patients to "open wide," they could be referring to their wallets as well as their mouths. Each DDS device costs $400 to $500.

Smaller bites should automatically result in reduced food intake, dentists say, because eating more slowly lets people's brains catch up with their stomachs.

When a person eats rapidly, he consumes more food than he needs because the stomach has a natural lag time in sending a message to the brain that it is full, said Casper and Michael I. Kim, a Mequon dentist. Both are certified to fit and sell the devices.

"It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to feel satiated," Kim said.

The idea, say dentists who sell the product, is to cut into the national obesity crisis that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims contributed to 400,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2000.

"The system addresses the problem of how we eat. If you eat more slowly, you eat less," Kim said.

"You should lose a pound a week," he said. "This is just one more way... to help people eat more slowly and less."

Certainly, there are cheaper methods, said Joan Pleuss, a bionutritionist in the clinical research center at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

"A baby spoon would be less expensive than $450," she said.

That argument doesn't go far with Longley. He said it's like telling an aspiring exerciser not to join a health club when walking around the block would be just as effective in improving health.

"A lot of people will connect with this. In this hectic life, slowing down will help people, and this tool will help them do that. Besides, try to get a patent on a small spoon," he said.


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