To view the original article as it appeared in Orthodontic Product Magazine with color photos [Click Here]



Readers of the article below should pay particular attention to the fact that Dr. Moskowitz addresses all of his remarks to the treatment of "morbid obesity" (those who have a Body Mass Index of 40-45, such as person 5'10" weighing 280 pounds.) Persons who have reached this condition are generally beyond OJW and as such are already more than likely to be medically compromised and would probably be deselected as an  OJW patient.  By doing so he diverts the reader from the fact that a cautious dentist would only choose relatively young patient, most often in excellent health who would present relatively little risk, such as a person whose BMI is closer to 30, for example, a person 5'10' weighing 210 pounds.


I hope that someday Dr. Moskowitz as the responsible editor of the NY State Dental Journal that  I know him to be will reconsider my work and even entertain the idea that OJW might benefit some persons who have the disease known as "obesity" and write a follow up article in support.


See the editorial in the February, 2005 issue of the magazine.  


His editorial and my response (abridged and full version)  are reprinted for your consideration. [Click here].


Author Chris Piehler, Ed. Orthodontic Products Magazine, February, 2005, p. 36


         Jaw Wiring

A Roundtable on a controversial weight-loss procedure

Ted Rothstein, DDS PHD
, has a private practice in Brooklyn, NY. He recently presented a table clinic at the Greater New York Dental Meeting titled. “The Dentist’s Role in the Treatment of Compulsive Overeating: Orthodontic Jaw Wiring.”


Jay Freeman, JD, is a lawyer practicing in Littleton, Colo, who has undergone OJW.


Laurence Jerrold, DDS JD, Is the interim dean and program director of the Orthodontic Residency program at Jacksonville University. He has presented or written more than 200 lectures, articles, and multimedia presentations dealing with risk management and ethics.


Elliot Moskowitz, DDS MSd, is a clinical professor in the department of orthodontics at New York University College of Dentistry and a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics. He is currently editor of the New York State Dental Journal.


Q     What is OJW?


Rothstein      OJW is a noninvasive approach to the control of compulsive overeating.  In this approach, the jaws are wired together by bonding 12 braces to the canines and first and second premolars to hold the jaws together in such a way as to prevent the intake of solid food.  The jaws are wired to permit the lower jaw to move about 1mm in every direction.  The wiring is removed by the patient after 5 weeks, and the jaw is “exercised” for 5 days after which the wiring is replaced. Chewing gum is the best exercise.  Weight loss is about 1.5 pounds per week or more if the patient exercises moderately.


Q     What sort of pretreatment screening do you do?


Rothstein      First, I have the patient sign an informed consent form and a medical-dental health form.  Then, I decide if he or she is a good candidate—a minimum of 30 pounds overweight, a maximum of 125 pounds overweight.  After a phone consultation and an in-person review, I bring them into the office for a precautionary panoramic x-ray.  Then I bond the brackets and teach them how to wire and unwire themselves—most of my patients come from other states and cannot return to be rewired by me.  The whole process takes about an hour and a half.


Q     What concrete results have you had?


Rothstein     None that I can document as my official scorecard.  I only have the kind remarks of the many people who I have helped.


Jerrold     When one develops a novel approach or technique that he then proposes to the profession, he has an obligation to document the efficacy of the treatment proposed.  If  Dr. Rothstein has had more than a few patients, this information should be available.


Q     How did you choose OJW over other methods of weight loss?


Freeman     It is very difficult for me to diet—and especially so once my weight is at a point where physical exercise is painful.  I had used diet meds, but they don’t work for a long time and the side effects are unpleasant.  I was not at that stage of desperation to take the drastic measure of surgery.  OJW is the equivalent of an alcoholic deciding to go on the wagon and not consume alcohol.


Rothstein      Jay was set to come to Brooklyn to have his OJW.  In the course of completing due diligence I called Jay’s dentist, Ivan Naiman, who I eventually persuaded to do the OJW under my long-distance tutelage; the procedure went as planned, and Jay is completing OJW with Dr. Naiman.


Q     What was your height and weight before the procedure?


Freeman     6ft, 1inch; 250 pounds.


Q     Describe your experience with OJW.


Completely pleasant; no pain, easily performed.  Once the wires were on, I had a great feeling of freedom from the constant craving for food.  If you know you can’t eat and can only drink, then you have little desire for food.  Once in a while, I’d have a craving for food—and I’d drink some soup.  I was consistently wired for 5 weeks, then on and off again since  I unwired myself many times.  I use wire snips at home, carry some in the car.  I once used a fork when I needed some sustenance after a long flight without any liquids.  I also rewire myself—it’s extraordinarily easy.  I’ve lost 30 pounds so far, and I’m trying to lose another 20 to 30.


Q     Would you recommend OJW to others in a situation similar to yours?


Freeman     Absolutely, without any hesitation whatsoever.


Q     What are the potential negative effects of OJW on the patient?


Moskowitz     Jaw wiring in already medically compromised obese patients may result in irreversible harm and possibly death.  Aspiration of vomitus has always been a real adverse occurrence of jaw-wiring efforts.


Freeman     In fact there is little likelihood of any irreversible harm, and the likelihood of swallowing your own puke is negligible (and, I might note, is a risk factor for any anesthesia, including that given routinely by dentists).  Moreover, as treatment regimens go, OJW is remarkably innocuous—compare it to the various forms of bariatric surgery.


Moskowitz     While many patients would receive a “jump start” in weight reduction, at some point, the wiring would be released and patients would be able to resume their usual and habitual eating habits.  Regaining of weight would most likely be the result.


Freeman     Recidivism and backsliding are rampant in all aspects of life; you don’t simply dismiss a possible treatment because of possible failure rates.  How about teeth-grinders that result in malocclusion?  Do dental professionals not treat the malocclusion for fear of the problem recurring?  Dr. Moskowitz admits that OJW can “jump start” a diet—and that is exactly the reason for OJW.


Jerrold     What you're missing is the argument that all medical people agree with:  Yo-yoing is more dangerous than remaining overweight, and with the subsequent regaining of the weight, the patient tends to find that he is heavier than before he had lost the weight.


Moskowitz     Potential temporomandibular joint problems as well as compromised oral hygiene and periodontal breakdown might also result from jaw wiring.  Nutritional guidance from qualified professionals and procedures such as gastric banding would appear to offer more predictable and long term benefits than OJW.


Freeman     The failure rate in bariatric surgery is surprisingly high—estimated at 20% in the May 24, 2004 issue of PEOPLE magazine.


Rothstein     In a recent survey I conducted, I spoke with 15 oral surgeons with a total of 275 years of  practicing experience wiring jaws as treatment for patients with broken jaws and other pathologies.  Not one of them could recount any morbidity/mortality related to the experience, other than typical problems that accompany wiring.  Death from aspiration of vomitus was unheard of among the group I sampled.  Consequently, I believe that OJW is relatively safe when the strict protocol I have created for OJW is followed.


Q     What are the legal issues with OJW?


Jerrold     There are essentially four issues.  The first is that the procedure be performed in a manner that does no harm to the patient in terms of decalcifications, compromise of the supporting periodontium, etc.


Freeman     This is an issue of no substance, assuming that the dentist who performs OJW does so competently; if s/he does it competently, then the exposure to malpractice is the same as with any other procedure.


Jerrold     The second issue is exposure to liability from secondary sequellae such as the possibility of aspirating vomitus.


Freeman     That is what the informed consent addresses.


Jerrold      The third concerns informed consent.  Was the patient apprised of reasonable expectations regarding the prognosis of having undergone the treatment?  Was he apprised of other alternatives?  Did he know of the potential risks?  Finally, the most important concerns the relationship of the services rendered and whether or not one would be perceived as practicing within or outside the scope of the state’s Dental Practice Act.  If something goes wrong and the issue goes to administrative hearing, I’m quite certain that the doctor will be judged as having rendered treatment that was beyond the scope of his or her license.


Rothstein     No official of any agency  has notified me that by providing OJW I have breached the scope of  the New York Dental Practice act.


Freeman     This is a matter of state-specific law. In Colorado, the statute defining dentistry says in part, that  “A person shall be deemed to be practicing dentistry if, in the course of legitimate professional practice, such person …Examines, diagnoses, plans treatment, or treats  natural of artificial structures or conditions associated with, adjacent to, or functionally related to the oral cavity or the maxillofacial area. ”Clearly, one can see  the foundation for the winning argument that OJW is completely within the defined practice of dentistry.


Rothstein     My firm belief is that wiring a jaw is well within the scope of “dental practice,” in that it is done in a manner consistent with general dental and orthodontics skills, with the understanding that I am providing only the mechanical means to assist the patient’s goal without actually “treating the problem.” I am one component of the patient’s health care team.


Moskowitz      Orthodontists and any physician foolish enough to participate or supervise in any OJW effort will find themselves defending charges from patients who are unhappy with their weight loss results or perceive that they have been harmed in some way.


Freeman     You can choose t o have one risk-tolerance, but that does not mean or suggest that other dental health professionals should be similarly afraid.


Moskowitz     Additionally, serious disciplinary actions form appropriate state and local regulatory agencies might very well entail censure, the loss of licensure, prosecution, and heavy fines for dentists who practice OJW for the specific treatment of morbid obesity should these agencies or regulatory bodies deem OJW to be out of the scope of dental practice.


Freeman     Sure regulatory agencies might look into it; that is another risk a dentist can individually assess.


Q     What steps can an orthodontist take to prevent himself from legal action?


Jerrold     The first would be to have the “disease or disorder” diagnosed by a physician. The physician should  then  recommend OJW as means of addressing the patient’s problem. The physician should then “contact” the orthodontist and request that the orthodontist perform OJW and that the patient should be jointly followed during the treatment. Finally, the patient should be treated by a team that is trained in this area. This is the safest way to attempt to limit one’s exposure.


Freeman     Does a dentist have substantial exposure to a real risk of loss?

 I submit that with proper informed consent being obtained, good screening of OJW candidates, good dentistry, etc, the risk of loss is likely not any higher that with and other dental procedure.


Rothstein     I have a set of medical and dental criteria that I use when accepting a patient for OJW to control compulsive overeating. If you go to the Website* you can see that the screening of patients is one with great care to address the issues that Dr. Jerrold raises.


Jerrold     Certainly obesity is the number one health risk in our society today, and it is increasingly prevalent among the orthodontic demographic. For this reason alone, if there is anything we can do to address this health issue we should take part in the treatment process, but only in conjunction with concurrent medical oversight. Is there liability exposure? Of course there is, but no more so  than when we had adult patients in intermaxillary fixation for 4-6 weeks following orthognathic surgery. The rewards are certainly there in terms of helping address a public health concern, helping individual patients, and the financial rewards that accompany treatment. On the down side, this procedure will have limited success unless the patient’s eating habits are addressed via psychological counseling. This must be a multidisciplinary approach. Psychologist, endocrinologist, primary car practitioner (PCP), dietician and orthodontist should all be team members.


Q     Why are orthodontist not qualified to be involved in weight-loss regimens?

Moskowitz     The main reason is that obesity is a complex medical problem, and dentists do no have adequate training in this particular area. The causes of obesity are considered to be multifactorial. Cultural, hormonal, psychological, biochemical, socioeconomic, and other factors might contribute to an individual’s obesity.  The fact that we, as dentists, have intimate knowledge of the oral cavity environment, and capabilities of mechanically or chemically manipulating orofacial structures, should not remotely suggest that we have a shred of expertise at treating obesity.


Rothstein     In no way do I believe that I am treating obesity. I have become part of a team that is helping patients to control their multifactorially  caused overweight problem,  I do  believe strongly  that I am compassionately and competently providing overweight patients a service for which they are grateful and willing to pay, and above all which will make them healthier.


Moskowitz     Successful weight loss in the significantly obese population is generally supervised by physicians (nutritionists, physical trainers, psychologists, et al).  Therapeutic weight loss is almost always the result of favorable and long term attitudinal and behavioral changes.  Wiring jaws closed with the expectation of addressing the obese patient’s long term therapeutic need is counter-intuitive, absurd, foolish and potentially dangerous.  Temporarily inducing an inability to have food enter the oral cavity by jaw wiring is, in my opinion, an abuse of the privilege of holding a dental license. The dental profession’s therapeutic involvement in weight loss and obesity defies legitimacy and, at best represents an outrageous embarrassment to the entire profession. At worst, it  would represent and egregious transgression that might well harm  the public.


Jerrold     I vigorously disagree. Dentists have every right to be therapeutically involved provided we do so at the direction of a physician and are bona fide members of the patient’s weight loss team. We have decided that it’s OK to ingratiate ourselves into the realms of plastic surgery, facial reconstruction, sleep apneas and orofacial pain. We have just as much right to be involved in the weight loss treatment as long as we are not the PCP.


Rothstein      Dr. Moskowitz seems aghast that orthodontists might be part of a team the provides services to a segment of the overweight population which is growing at the rate of one percent annually in the United States. Underlying his abhorrence of OJW, it seems to me, is the idea that it tarnishes the image of the profession of orthodontics. I believe otherwise, and will continue to do my part to influence the members of the dental community to do the same.


Q     What advances and/or proof would it take for you to approve of OJW?


Moskowitz        The criteria for approving OJW as a valid therapeutic procedure (unrelated to whether dentists and/or physicians should be performing this procedure) would be the same criteria that are applied  to any new or suggested therapeutic procedure, carefully designed and implemented randomized clinical trials  have become the “gold standard” for the evaluation of drugs and procedures in medicine and dentistry. Unbiased studies with valid sampling, controls, and long-term evaluations are needed  before OJW or any other procedure is offered to the public.


Freeman     Finally, something  we can agree upon. I think longitudinal and follow-up studies would be great, but not as a predicate for performing OJW. Given the multifactorial bases of obesity, it would be impossible to correlate the success of an OJW procedure and the propriety of the procedure itself.


Rothstein     I believe doctors like Elliot Moskowitz should be alert to the possibilities of obtaining, for the NYU dental facility, Medicaid funding for research on a potentially valuable treatment for selected candidates aspiring to control their compulsive overeating by OJW, a treatment method that orthodontists are preeminently sell-suited to provide.   I also suggest to Elliot that he apply for federal  research funding  to run some controlled research projects, and use the “null hypotheses” that OJW has no place in the gamut of treatments modalities now available now available to help compulsive overeaters restructure their lives. In the same way that we have discarded archaic notions that guide how we have delivered orthodontic treatment and replaced them with evidence based facts, we must do no less for OJW. END